Posts Tagged ‘Strikes’

Striking Teachers Describe Lack of Resources and Underfunding

February 6, 2023

Last week Britain’s teachers joined the other workers in taking strike action over decades of poor pay and increasingly deteriorating conditions. And naturally, the right-wing media and YouTubers sneered and complained. One berk who phoned up Mike Graham on LBC radio claimed to have been married to a teacher, but that they were actually well-paid with plenty of spare time and holidays. This was pounced on immediately by various left-wing YouTubers, who pointed out that teachers don’t have plenty of spare time, because they’re still required to work after the official end of the school day, on things like sports and so on. Plus they have to take the kids’ schoolwork home for marking. This means that in practice they’re working much longer than their official hours. I know, as my mother was one. Another pratt appeared on GB News or some other right-wing internet news channel to claim that they were being selfish and should put up with low wages like others were doing. But, he said, he would have been prepared to support them if they had been striking over the poor conditions and state of Britain’s schools. Michael Walker of Novara Media pulled that one to shreds, stating that teachers couldn’t actually do that by law. Current British legislation states that workers can only strike over pay and conditions, not over anything else.

But the state of Britain’s schools has always been a major concern to teachers aside from their own personal interests. It was one of the reasons behind the teachers’ strike when Thatcher was in power in the 1980s, and it’s a major cause of their discontent now. I also found a video on YouTube, in which they describe how underfunded schools are and the shortages of necessary teaching equipment and resources this causes. I can’t put it up here, as I’ve since lost it unfortunately, but I hope you’ll accept what I’m saying.

Schools have been underfunded and teachers poorly paid for a very long time, because Thatcherite ideology doesn’t like state education. Hence the transition of schools from the state sector, run by the local authority, to academies, managed by private companies. The companies owning them are often in tax havens, and these schools are frequently no better than the state management they replace. In fact many were so dreadful themselves that the chains running them collapsed and they had to be taken back into state management. But this hasn’t deterred the Tories. A few years ago, mad-eyed Nikki Morgan wanted to bring back grammar schools and but that was quashed. The idea is still out there, however, floating around on the right.

The point here is that teachers aren’t just striking for themselves, but because they are acutely aware of how poorly the state education sector is being treated by decades of Thatcherite mismanagement, cuts and underfunding. They aren’t striking because they want to harm the education of the children they teach by stopping work, but to force the government into treating schools fairly.

There’s also a class element there as well. Private school fees have rocketed while funding of state schools has remained level. This means that the rich are receiving a much more expensive, and presumably better education, than state pupils. This may allow them to position themselves as in a natural position to take up top jobs and social positions than all those pesky state students.

So when you hear the Tories whinge about teachers, remember: they want state schools and their staff to be poor, so that their pupils will always remain, compared to them, at the back of the class in terms of jobs and prospects.

The Megaphone’s Images and Messages from Today’s Strikers

February 2, 2023
Image
The biggest strike in a decade: 500,000 people, 84 rallies up and down the country — fighting for fair pay, decent conditions and good services. And to defend our right to strike.
Working people took to the picket lines to demand fair pay, safe conditions and respect
NEU Pay Up! Defend our Schools Rally in London
A series of tweets from trade union advocates across the country, celebrating solidarity, standing together and demanding a pay rise.
The fight continues: join a union today
Already in a union? Share this on WhatsApp
Megaphone UK is a project of the TUC, in collaboration with our 48 member unions and the nearly 5.5 million union members in the UK. We know big change only comes when we stand together. Learn more: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/

How Can I Get My Book and Pamphlet Against NHS Privatisation Out to the Wider Public?

February 1, 2023

Okay, a few years ago – I was when Cameron was in power – I was so worried about NHS privatisation that I wrote a couple of pieces of literature about it. One was just a pamphlet consisting of a few pieces of A4 folded together giving the main points about NHS privatisation and how it was killing the health service. Another was a short book, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which I self-published through Lulu, the print on demand service. Since doing so, I’ve had next to zero interest in them. I have a page about them on this blog. Simply go to the relevant bar, and look at ‘pages’ and you’ll find them there, along with other books I’ve self-published. Here’s the pieces about them from that page.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, David Sivier, A5, 10pp.

This is a brief critique of successive government’s gradual privatisation of the NHS, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair’s New Labour were determined to turn as much healthcare as possible over to private companies, on the advice of the consultants McKinsey and the American insurance companies. The Conservatives under David Cameron have continued and extended Blair’s privatisation, so that there is a real danger that the NHS, and the free, universal service it has provided for sixty-five years, will be destroyed. If the NHS is to be saved, we must act soon.

Long Anti-NHS Privatisation pic

Privatisation: Killing the NHS, by David Sivier, A5, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

If you would like one of the pamphlets, please get in touch using the contact form below. All details will of course be kept strictly confidential, and will not be passed on to third parties. If you only want single copies of the above, let me know and I’ll post them free to you.’

Now with the NHS facing a truly devastating crisis and the Tory and hard-right sharks circling and demanding its privatisation, I want to get these out to as many people as possible. And I’d be grateful for any ideas.

Of course, one way would simply be to have multiple copies of these pamphlets printed off and to set up a stall in town, and especially right when there’s a strike. But I only have a very small number of copies of the books around at the moment. Also, the myeloma means that I am not as mobile as I once was, and the council and bus companies in their infinite wisdom have cut the direct route from where I live into the centre of Bristol. But I’m hoping this might still be an option.

For the self-published book, one solution might be to go to see the buyer for my local branch of Waterstone’s and see if they would be interested in stocking it.

I’m also considering writing to my local Labour party and asking if they would be interested in stocking them, as well as contacting my local Labour MP to see if she would also like copies. I’m hesitant to do this, however, as I put the blame firmly where it lies – not just with Thatcher and the Tories, but also with Blair and New Labour. Kier Starmer is a true-blue Thatcherite and devoted follower of Blairism. He has said some ominous things about using the private sector to aid the NHS, even though it’s due to privatisation, as well as underfunding, that is responsible for this crisis. The local MP for south Bristol, Karen Smyth, is very firmly on the side of the health service, but she’s also an admirer of Starmer. Reading her messages about the health service, while she says much about how it’s been run down, she doesn’t condemn outsourcing. I can therefore see the pamphlets being extremely unwelcome in certain right-wing Labour circles.

Beyond this, any suggestions?

I’d be interested to know if there are any left-wing organisations that would be willing to accept copies of the book and pamphlet and/or publicise them. I’ve tried looking on Google for small press associations and organisations that might be suitable, but none have so far turned up. One possibility could be contacting some of the left-wing news and comment sites on YouTube and the Internet, but I’m not sure how willing they’d be to say anything about them. I haven’t had much luck in the past when I sent some of my literature to the Canary and a few others.

If you therefore have any ideas, please let me know in the comments section below.

Megaphone Calls for People to Tweet to Support the Right to Strike

February 1, 2023

‘David,

Today, 500,000 workers are taking strike action because they’ve been given no choice.

Instead of tackling the cost of living crisis, the Prime Minister is attacking key workers and clamping down on our most basic rights. 

It is the national day of action to Protect the Right to Strike. And it is a powerful display of our collective strength, our solidarity and our power.

Working people are coming together at rallies and picket lines up and down the country to fight for decent pay, conditions and our right to strike. It’s not too late to join an event near you!

Key workers will present our petition at Downing Street, passing on the names of 260,700 people who have joined the campaign so far. 

There will be huge media coverage of working people taking action today, and we must do everything we can to make sure this government get our message loud and clear. 

Can you share our video of our key workers message to the Prime Minister? The more people who see it, the stronger our campaign becomes.

Send a tweet

We have a lot to fight for. 

Our right to choose to withdraw our labour. To be safe on the job. To earn a decent wage so we can feed our families. For the decent public services we deserve.

It’s vital that we echo and amplify the energy of the hundreds of thousands of people braving the streets, in every way we can. 

It takes just seconds to flood politicians’ feeds with our demand to defend the #RightToStrike. Can you help us fire up a tweet storm David?

In unity,

Anthony, 

Megaphone UK’

I’m not on Twitter, but I certainly would if I was. If any of my readers are and support the right to strike, perhaps you’d like to send a tweet supporting the strikers as suggested.

Online Rally Tonight on Fighting Back Against the Tories

February 1, 2023

I had this message yesterday from the Arise people.

Fightback this Wednesday 📢

Hello David

The February 1 day of action is shaping up to be a massive show of resistance. You can be part of it by:

  • Joining a picket line, in support of striking teachers, lecturers, civil servants and many more. Find out where you can go on Strikemap here.
  • Sharing the actions listed on righttostrike.org
  • Coming together with us in the evening at the #BuildingtheFightback online rally at 6.30pm. Full details are below – PCS, NEU, RMT, CWU & more voices of resistance will be joining us!

Yours in solidarity.
The Arise & Labour Assembly volunteers.
 

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, THIS Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

FINAL-LINE UP CONFIRMED: Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // John McDonnell MP // Riccardo La Torre, FBU // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Angie Rojas, Acorn // Tandrima Mazumdar, Migrants Organise // Logan Williams, striking teacher // James Braithwaite, RMT Young members activist // Robert Poole, co-founder of Strike Map // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No/

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. 

I’m not planning to go, but I’m putting this up for those who are interested. And I’m 100 per cent behind everyone battling the Tories and their anti-worker policies.,

Breaking News from Arise: Firefighters Vote Overwhelmingly for Strike Action

January 30, 2023

Just got this from the Arise Festival of Left-wing Ideas:

BREAKING: Firefighters deliver emphatic mandate for industrial action

Hello David

We are writing to share the breaking news that Firefighters have delivered a decisive mandate for strike action, with 88% voting Yes on a 73% turnout. You can:

Yours in solidarity.
The Arise & Labour Assembly volunteers.

This is so overwhelming that the vote would still be valid and binding even under Sunak’s proposed cruddy legislation to stifle strikes. We’ve seen the firefighters before lock horns with the government over pay and redundancies. This is shows how massively discontented they are, and with good reason.

So maximum support to our firefighters, and out with Sunak and the Tories.

Message from Diane Abbott about Online Rally to Build Resistance against the Tories in February

January 20, 2023

We must do everything we can in support of the strikers – Diane Abbott

Be part of the fightback – Register here // Retweet me here // FB share here // Read article here.

HelloDavid

Whatever the Tories may tell us, the current strike wave that has been unleashed is as a direct result of government policies to benefit big business by impoverishing workers. Now, ministers are directly involved in attempting to defeat the strikes in numerous ways. As a result, these strikes are objectively highly political. The government has made them so, and is willing to use every type of divide-and-rule tactic and press vilification to defeat the strikers.

The unions taking action on pay, conditions and jobs are therefore effectively taking on the government head-on. There is no doubt the public is with the strikers. The strikers are the big battalions in the fight against this government, but everyone has a part to play. All of us must now do everything we can in terms of moral, political and financial support for the strikers because they really are fighting for us all, and I will be pleased to join with speakers from the PCS, CWU, FBU, GMB and NHS Workers Say No on the national day of action on February 1 at the Building the Fightback rally.

I hope to see you there,

Yours in solidarity,
Diane Abbott MP (via Arise.)

PS: Register for February 1 today here.

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Liz Cabeza, Acorn (Haringey) // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No // Matt Wrack, FBU GS & more.

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. ‘

Open Britain on the Tory Attack on Democracy

January 17, 2023

I got this email from the pro-democracy organisation, Open Britain, on the Tories’ continued campaign against democracy in our fair country. It runs

Dear David,

Over the last four years, we have witnessed a rapid reduction in the fairness and inclusivity of UK politics. Rishi Sunak seems determined to continue Boris Johnson’s all-out assault on the rights, institutions, and norms designed to hold the government to account. Academics have a term for this process: “democratic backsliding”.

It’s worth reflecting on recent years through the lens of backsliding to understand where Johnson, Truss, and Sunak are taking us – and how low we’ve already sunk. Researchers at University College London have identified the following critical elements of backsliding:

  1. Breakdown in the norms and standards of political behaviour
  2. Disempowerment of the legislature, the courts, and independent regulators
  3. The reduction of civil liberties and press freedoms; and/or
  4. Harm to the integrity of the electoral system 

On the first element, it’d be nearly impossible to deny that norms and standards in UK politics have become warped beyond recognition, largely thanks to Boris Johnson.

The sheer quantity of Johnson’s absurd lies to the public. The blatant PPE contract corruption. The unlawful attempt to prorogue Parliament. The repeated partying throughout the pandemic. Truss’ appointment of Mark Fullbrook as chief of staff. Rishi Sunak’s refusal to sack Suella Braverman amid egregious security violations. Take your pick.

But norms have also been eroded at a deeper level. The government now appears comfortable with breaking international law whenever it suits their needs.

The Internal Markets Bill (2020), the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (2022), the planned Bill of Rights Bill, and the plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda all undermine the UK’s long-held reputation for upholding international agreements on human rights and trade agreements (many of which UK ministers and officials helped to draft). Our government is clearly quite comfortable ignoring its citizens and the international community. It’s safe to say that the first box on that list is checked.

On the second element, backsliding may not be as apparent, but close inspection reveals some seriously concerning changes here too.

The government has attracted robust criticism from the Hansard Society for rushing bills through Parliament and abusing the ‘statutory instruments’ mechanism to limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinise bills properly.

They have also drawn widespread criticism for taking steps that inevitably undermined the powers and independence of the Electoral Commission. Boris Johnson removed the Commission’s powers to prosecute and attempted to give a (then) Tory-dominated committee control over its operations, and a number of Conservative MPs even called for its abolition.

It’s not just the Electoral Commission either. Former Commissioner for Public Appointments Peter Riddell also accused the government of “packing” appointment panels to blatantly place political allies in the House of Lords.

On the third element, we’ve also seen that this government is willing to toss aside fundamental rights and freedoms when they become politically inconvenient. The Policing Act (2022) was a significant affront to our right to protest, including giving police the right to shut down “noisy” protests.

That is now followed by the Public Order Bill (2023), currently in the Lords, which seeks to expand these measures further, giving police the right to pre-emptively crackdown on protests before they happen and keep registers of known activists based on facial recognition data. If that’s not an infringement of civil liberties, then nothing is.

And let’s not forget Dominic Raab’s grubby plans to overturn the Human Rights Act. 

We’ve also recently seen the press and the labour movement under fire from the government. Several journalists were arrested while covering climate protests last November, despite showing valid press IDs. And the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4 last year – finally abandoned under public pressure this January – and their continued hostility towards the BBC betray an instinct for threatening vital public news services when they are perceived to be getting in the way.

The Sunak government’s latest priority is to crack down on the right to strike by introducing government-set minimum service standards, once again choosing authoritarian mandates over dialogue or compromise. It’s hard to deny backsliding is also occurring in this area.

On the final element, it has been clear for some time that the integrity of the voting system used for general elections is in jeopardy. The Elections Act (2022) now requires voters to show ID at polling stations, something that creates a barrier to legitimate electors being able to exercise their democratic right to vote. Worse, the government’s choice of valid ID seems to disadvantage people from demographics less likely to vote Conservative. That bill also mandated the use of FPTP for Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections, entrenching a broken system that does not accurately reflect the true will of the electorate. 

It’s clear that the UK is indeed in a phase of democratic backsliding. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue on this path. 

As we move forward in 2023, OB will continue to work, alone and with partners who share our ambitions and values, to ensure UK democracy is striding forwards, not sliding backwards.

The Open Britain team

P.S. We and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

Add to this the secret courts that Dodgy Dave Cameron pushed through, in which you can be tried in secret, without you or your defence knowing the identity of your accusers and evidence withheld from you if the authorities deem it necessary for reasons of national security, and we really are heading towards what some commenters call ‘a democratic deficit’.

I didn’t realise this, but the tribune was the Roman magistrate charged with defending the rights of the plebs and the army. Hence the phrase, ‘a tribune of the people’. The late 18th century French revolutionary communist, Gracchus Babeuf, also recommended a panel of officials charged with making sure local politicos performed their duties. If they didn’t, their constituents had the right of recall and out they would go. I like this idea, and the fact that the Romans knew that you needed officials to protect democratic rights and freedoms shows, in my opinion, just how wise they were. Not wise enough not to be ruled by a bunch of raving psychopaths, but you can’t expect too much from past ages.

Boris claims to be a great admirer of ancient Rome. It’s a pity the tribunes aren’t one of them. Instead from the Tories we get a lot of bluster about democracy and free speech right when they trying to undermine all of it.

TUC Online Meeting Tomorrow to Defend the Right to Strike

January 17, 2023

I got this email today through Megaphone, the internet activism wing of the TUC. There’s an online meeting tomorrow evening about defending the right to strike from Sunak’s and the Tories’ attempts to strangle it with further legislation.

‘David. You and more than 115,000 people have now signed the petition: Protect the right to strike.

It’s an incredible response to these shocking and undemocratic laws, but we must do more.

Tomorrow night at 6pm, the TUC is hosting an online call to outline the urgent action we must take to stop this bill in it’s tracks.

MPs will be voting on these new laws in the coming weeks, and we know that many are undecided about whether they will support these laws or not. We must reach them as soon as we can. 

Can you join on Wednesday night (tomorrow!) at 6pm to hear what you can do immediately to help stop these laws? Everyone has a part to play.

Join the call: How we protect the right to strike!

Anthony,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve registered, and if this is important to you, perhaps you’d like to go to it too.

Charles James Fox’s Solution to Social Unrest – Listen to the Protesters and Address Their Grievances

January 9, 2023

In his 1792 speech to the parliament in which he denounced the government’s closure of the various republican and democratic societies supporting the French Revolution and attempts to dictate British public opinion, Fox also stated what he would also do to solve the social unrest then breaking out. His recommendation was simple: actually listen to the protesters and do something to solve the issues against which they were protesting. Moreover, he stated that he believed strongly that every man should be able to approach parliament with their complaints. He said

‘But, it may be asked, what would I propose to do in times of agitation like the present? I will answer openly. If there is a tendency in the dissenters to discontent, because they conceive themselves to be unjustly suspected and cruelly calumniated, what would I do? – I would instantly repeal the Test and Corporation Acts, and take from them, by such a step, all cause of complaint. If there were any persons tinctured with a republican spirit, because they thought that the representative government was more perfect in republic, I would endeavour to amend the representation of the Commons, and to show that the House of Commons, though not chosen by all, should have no other interest than to prove itself the representative of all. If there were men dissatisfied in Scotland or Ireland or elsewhere, on account of disabilities and exemptions, of unjust prejudices, and of cruel restrictions, I would repeal the penal statutes, which are a disgrace to our law books. If there were other complaints of grievances, I would redress them where they were really proved; but above all I would constantly, cheerfully, patiently listen. I would make it known that if any man felt, or thought he felt, a grievance, he might come freely to the bar of this House, and bring his proofs: and it should be made manifest to all the world that where they did exist they would be redressed; where they did not, that it should be made evident. If I were to issue a proclamation, this should be my proclamation: ‘If any man has a grievance, let him bring it to the bar of the Commons’ House of Parliament with the firm persuasion of having it honestly investigated.’ These are the subsidies that I would grant to government.’

In Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock, The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes, (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1956) 3.

Definitely a lesson for Rishi Sunak, who does not want to listen, let alone do anything to address the strikers’ complaints, except to make it difficult for them to strike.