Posts Tagged ‘Zero Hours Contracts’

Starmer Insults Working Class, Makes Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor

May 11, 2021

In his flailing attempt to win voters back to the Labour party after the humiliation of last week’s elections, Starmer has decided on a cabinet reshuffle. He’s taking full responsibility for the debacle by placing all the blame on his underlings, like Angela Rayner, who he sacked as the party’s chair. He blamed her for the loss of Hartlepool, despite the fact that she had absolutely nothing to do with it. The choice of candidate and the selection of May 6th as the date of the by-election was that of his personal private secretary, Jenny Chapman. Rayner is due some payback for her betrayal of Corbyn, but she doesn’t deserve to be sacked from her post for something she didn’t do. Except possibly she hasn’t been sacked. Faced with a wave of criticism, Starmer said something about her being kept in the cabinet with a ‘more enhanced role’.

He was also rumoured to be bringing in a number of other members of the party’s extreme right, like the toxic Wes Streeting and the noxious Hilary Benn. And yesterday Mike put up a post reporting that Starmer had appointed as Shadow Chancellor the vile Rachel Reeves. She’s the woman, who’s so left-wing, that she and her fellow right-wing Chucklehead Jess Philips went to a party a few years ago celebrating 100 years of the Spectator. This is the increasingly Alt Right Tory rag that publishes pieces by Taki, a Greek playboy. Unlike Corbyn, who was simply critical of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, Taki really does have some vile anti-Semitic opinions. And in one of his pieces for the magazine he praised the neo-Nazi Greek organisation, the Golden Dawn. This is the outfit that beats up illegal immigrants, hands out food to the poor and unemployed, but only if they’re Greek, and whose leader was sent to prison for the murder of a left-wing journalist. But that isn’t the only time Reeves showed her highly selective attitude to real anti-Semites. A few years ago she joined former premier Theresa May in paying tribute to Nancy Astor. Astor was the first woman MP, and obviously a feminist political pioneer. But she was also a vicious Jew-hater and fan of Hitler. So when it comes to anti-Semitism and her attitude to her former party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, she could fairly be called a hypocrite.

But Corbyn wasn’t the only target for her vindictiveness. She also hates the unemployed and people on benefits. Back when Ed Miliband was leader, she declared that Labour would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories. This was because Labour was the party of working people. This was when dodgy Dave Cameron was demanding that unemployment benefit should be cut even further in order to ‘make work pay’, and justified this spite by claiming that hard-working people didn’t like to look out each morning and see the closed curtains of the unemployed. It was another example of Blairite Labour looking at what the Tories were doing, and then trying to appeal to their voters by being even worse. It was very much an attempt to win over the kind of people who read the Heil and Depress and believe their wretched nonsense about benefit scroungers. It’s bound to fail because, while Murdoch was prepared to back Blair, the Mail resolutely held out against him. Which shows that the terrible rag does have some kind of twisted, political integrity amid all the lies and bigotry.

Many people were really worried about the direction New Labour’s hatred of the unemployed would take. New Labour had introduced workfare in the form of Blair’s New Deal, in which the unemployed were sent to work for charities and the big supermarket chains or else they didn’t get their benefit. It was a way of giving these organisations cheap labour and showed more than a little similarity to the use of forced, slave labour in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Stalin industrialised his country through the massive use of the unfree labour of people arrested for alleged treason and anti-Soviet activities. The heads of various industries and enterprises gave the KGB lists of the type of workers they needed, and the KGB then went out and arrested them. Nazi Germany also expanded this systems of voluntary work the Weimar Republic had started to combat unemployment into the Reichsarbeitsdienst, a compulsory period of unpaid service for all German citizens. The SS also used the slave labour of skilled Jewish artisans and craftsmen to produce a range of luxury goods, available through catalogue. One of the great commenters on this blog wondered if, under Reeves and co., Labour would also develop similar systems of forced labour. In the 1930s, for example, the party had also opened a number of labour camps which were intended to teach the unemployed the habit of working properly. I don’t think Labour would go that far in today’s political climate, but given the way Boris is dragging this country towards real Fascism, I think someone like Reeves would try to get as close as possible.

As well as showing Reeves’ vindictiveness towards the poor and out of work, it also showed how out of touch her comments were with the reality of work today. Thatcher famously declared that she was ending the old culture where someone had a job for life. Under her, it became much easier to fire someone and companies started taking on workers on short term contracts. Blair and Brown were very keen on making sure that the labour market remained fluid, and that companies could take on and sack staff as and when they wished. And Dodgy Dave, Tweezer and the rest of the Tory governments of the unspeakable have pushed this even further. We now live in the gig economy, where large numbers of workers have very precarious employment. When this process was just beginning in the 1980s, right-wing politicos, economists and hacks raved about how workers could make themselves attractive to employers through compiling ‘job portfolios’. Presumably this was lists of the various jobs they done under short-term contracts. In the 1990s the Financial Times stated it was a rubbish idea, and it mercifully seems to have vanished. But punitive policies towards the unemployed also harm the workers in the gig economy, those without proper workers’ rights, who are on zero hours contracts and the rest, who are under enough pressure already without the fear of further humiliation and punishment if their bosses sack them and they are forced to seek what help they can from the DWP.

Reeves’ appointment as Shadow Chancellor shows that Starmer is overtly moving to the extreme right. He’s promoting people who are still clinging to the lies of Thatcherite economics, unaware that it’s failed and is responsible for the real poverty and deprivation now affecting Britain’s working people. Corbyn’s policies – a strong welfare state, fully nationalised and funded NHS, proper rights for working people, strong trade unions and a mixed economy, were popular, despite the devastating effect Tory propaganda had on the image of Corbyn himself. They’re also what the country needs.

But obviously not what Starmer and Reeves want. They want to ingratiate themselves to the rich and the employers at the expense of working people, while copying the Tory attempts to brand themselves as the true defenders of the working class.

The German Communist Party’s 1931 Demands for Women’s Equality

November 4, 2020

One of the other books I’ve been reading during the lockdown is The German Left and the Weimar Republic: Selection of Documents, edited by Ben Fowkes, (Chicago: Haymarket Books 2014). The Weimar Republic was the name given to Germany for the all too brief period from the end of the First World War to the the Nazi seizure of power in 1933/4. It was a tumultuous period which saw the brief rise of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ council seize power briefly, the brutal suppression of soviet republics up and down Germany by the Freikorps, the rise of the Nazis, and splits in the majority Germany socialist, the SPD, which produced the USPD (Independent Socialist Party of Germany), the SAP (Socialist Workers’ Party) and the German Communist Party. The book collects a number of documents from these left-wing parties and movements, which reveal their policies and attitudes towards some of the most important issues of the day.

In 1931 the KPD proposed a law to protect and give full equal rights to working women. I’m putting this up, because while I’m very definitely not a Communist, these demands show how far ahead of their time the Communists were. Women’s right to work was attacked by the Nazis, who saw women’s proper sphere as ‘Kinder, Kirche, Kuche’ – children, church and kitchen. And although governments now are keen, or claim to be keen, to promote women’s equality in politics, culture, industry and science, the laws protection working women from exploitation and arbitrary dismissal have been and are being rolled back. This is line with the general attack on worker’s employment rights and job security.

The KPD proposals ran

We call on the Reichstag to demand that the government introduce a bill to protect and give full equality of rights to working women according to the following principles:

  1. Establishment of complete economic, cultural and political equality of rights between women and men. All laws and emergency ordinances that contradict this are to be abrogated with immediate effect.
  2. Women in all enterprises in industry and agriculture, doing the same work as men, are to be paid wages at the same level as men. The longest daily working time for women is to be set at seven hours, with full wage equality, while for unhealthy and heavy work, as well as for young females below the age of 18, it is to be set at six hours.
  3. (Similar provisions for office workers).
  4. Working women are to have a fully equal right to occupy all posts in all professions. Women workers, office employees and civil service officials are not be dismissed because they are married. All working women are to receive free professional training appropriate to their professional capacity.
  5. All unemployed women must have a legal right to full unemployment insurance payments without means testing or reference to the income of family members. Every kind of compulsory labour or compulsory re-training is prohibited. The right to receive social insurance during the whole period of unemployment is to be guaranteed.
  6. All working women employed in industry, agriculture, commerce and transport and domestic work as well as women in the so -called free professions, housewives and the female relatives or working peasants are to be included in the social insurance system.
  7. Dismissal of pregnant women is legally prohibited up to the 12th month after the birth of the child. The pregnant woman is to receive full pay and be exempt from work from eight weeks before until eight weeks after the birth. Nursing mothers are to receive half and hour twice a day for breast-feeding their children, without any reduction in wages. Maternity homes in sufficient numbers are to be made available to all working women, also creches for babies and children up to three years old, nurseries for children from three to school age. These services are to be provided free of payment. They are to be directed and supervised by control committees made up of delegates from the working population, mainly women.
  8. The interruption of pregnancy is to be permitted by law. The contrary paragraphs of the penal code (184 Section 3 and 28) are to be abolished. All persons condemned under the previous abortion paragraphs are to be amnestied immediately, and all current cases are to be terminated. Abortion carried out by a doctor and the provision of the means to avoid pregnancy count as medicate help in the national system of insurance.
  9. When entering marriage, the woman retains her right to decide independently in all legal and personal matters. She is not dependent on the husband in any of her decisions. After marriage, the women may take the name of her husband, but she may also continue to be known under her maiden name. She has the same parental power over her children as the man.
  10. All exceptional provisions dealing with the unmarried mother and the illegitimate child are removed. Every unmarried women has the right to be bear the title of ‘Frau’. In mixed marriages, the choice of nationality is left to the woman.

Obviously, abortion rights are still extremely controversial today. And one of the reasons for the introduction of zero hours contracts and firms insisting that their employees should sign documents stating that they are self-employed is deny women rights like maternity leave. And unemployed women and men are required to go for compulsory retraining and work under Blair’s wretched ‘welfare to work’ initiative. Which is another Tory idea taken from the Americans.

The reduction of the working day for women would be controversial today. More women work part-time than men because they do the majority of work rearing children and running the home. A week or so ago someone proposed that women’s working day should therefore be shortened generally for those reasons. But one of the drawbacks of this would be that women would need to be paid more than men in order to close the gender income gap. Many men on the political right already feel that they will be discriminated against regarding pay rates because of this.

The KPD made these demands nearly 90 years ago, and despite many of them having been introduced over the following decades, we still need to follow their recommendations to defend the rights of all working women along with workers generally.

Labour Assembly Against Austerity’s Petition against Rishi Sunak’s Recovery Plan

September 25, 2020

A couple of hours ago I got an email from the Labour Assembly Against Austerity. They are petitioning against Sunak’s support package announced earlier this week on the grounds that it doesn’t go nearly far enough in giving people the help they need. They wrote

‘Urgently Needed – A Plan for the People


Rishi Sunak’s announcement this week was too little, too late, and will not prevent a massive increase in unemployment. We need to fight for every job and we need to fight for an economic plan for the people. As part of this campaigning, over 9000 people have now signed up in support of this plan to fight the Tories and put people first. Please help us get this up to 10,000 by taking 30 seconds to:

  • Retweet it here
  • Share & Like our Facebook video here
  • Add Your Name here

Let’s keep fighting the Tories and for a better future – for people and planet,

The Labour Assembly Against Austerity Volunteer Team.’

The text of the petition runs

A Post-Pandemic Plan for the People – #PeopleBeforeProfit. Add Your Name!The economic crisis we now face is set to be the worst any of us have experienced. We urgently need to transform our economy and society to ensure that people’s jobs, livelihoods and health come before private profit.

DEFEND LIVINGS STANDARDS AND JOBS – INVEST IN OUR FUTURE

The fight to prevent soaring unemployment is paramount. We need to build a movement that demands the Government takes the action needed to create full-employment with well-paid secure jobs for all.
This will need massive, sustained investment in our infrastructure, in council housing, transport, public services, industry and beyond.
We must eradicate financial insecurity through a minimum earnings guarantee at a decent level, ensure Statutory Sick Pay at living wage levels, support for renters, and build a Social Security System that is universal and not punitive.
The crisis has shown we need trade unions more than ever. Greater union rights and freedoms will help end the exploitative zero-hour and precarious contracts that dominate our economy, save jobs and give workers a proper say in their workplace.

REBUILDING TO TACKLE THE CLIMATE CATASTROPHE AND ACHIEVE SOCIAL JUSTICE:

We must rebuild in a way that tackles the existential threat of climate breakdown with ambitious, redistributive policies that put jobs, equality and improving people’s lives first. Research shows £85bn investment in green infrastructure could help create 1.24 million jobs in 2 years.
The state must urgently invest to create high-quality green jobs and technologies through a Green New Deal, providing a just, environmentally sustainable transition of our industries and infrastructure by safeguarding the employment of all.

UNIVERSAL, PUBLICLY-OWNED SERVICES:

Our public services provided the vital support needed during the pandemic. But this crisis also sharply exposed how a decade of austerity and privatisation has left them at breaking point. We need to rebuild them to be the world class services our communities deserve creating hundreds of thousands of socially useful jobs at the same time. Only public ownership and universality will ensure access to our public services.
Our transport system should be integrated and upgraded, with the railways and buses publicly owned and education properly funded and free for all. NHS under-funding, staff shortages and privatisation must end. We urgently need a public, universal social care service.

EQUALITY FOR ALL:

This pandemic has shone a spotlight on the deep structural inequalities in our society. Now is the time for real change. The dismantling of systematic inequality and liberation for all must be at the heart of how we rebuild better.
The Black Lives Matter movement has rightly pushed the structural racism to the top of the political agenda. Real government action, not just words, is now needed.
Women and disabled people have already seen a rolling back of equality gains under the Tories and these risk being further undermined, while LGBT+ people face a reactionary government which is not afraid to use the tactics of divide and rule. We must demand an end to the scapegoating of disabled people on benefits.

If you support it, please go over to their website and sign it, as I’ve done.

Lenin’s Decree on Workers’ Control in the Russian Revolution

September 23, 2020

Robert V. Daniels’ A Documentary History of Communism in Russia from Lenin to Gorbachev (Burlington, Vermont: University of Vermont Press 1993) also contains the text of Lenin’s decree establishing workers’ control in businesses throughout the Russian empire. This ran

  1. In the interests of a systematic regulation of national economy, Worker’s Control is introduced in all industrial, commercial, agricultural (and similar) enterprises which are hiring people to work for them in their shops or which are giving them work to take home. This control is to extend over the production, storing, buying and selling of raw materials and finished products as well as over the finances of any enterprises.
  2. The workers will exercise this control through their elected organisations such as factory and shop committees, soviets of elders, etc. The office employees and the technical personnel are also to have representation in these committees.
  3. Every large city, province and industrial area is to have its own Soviet of Workers’ Control, which, being an organ of the S(oviet) of W(orkers’), S(oldiers’)and P(easants’) D(eputies), must be composed of representatives of trade unions, factory, shop and other workers’ committees and workers’ cooperatives.
  4. ….
  5. The organs of Workers’ Control have the right to supervise production fix the minimum of output, and determine the cost of production.
  6. The organs of Workers’ Control have the right to control all the business correspondence of an enterprise. Owners of enterprises are legally responsible for all correspondence kept secret. Commercial secrets are abolished. the owners have to show to the organs of Workers’ Control all their books and statements for the current year and for the past years.
  7. The rulings of the organs of Workers’ Control are binding on the owners of enterprises and can be annulled only by decisions of the higher organs of Workers’ Control. (pp. 69-70).

Daniels’ explains that this idea had the support of most of the Russian workers at the time, some of whom were already putting it into practise by force. Sergei Eisenstein shows workers taking over the factories and throwing the bosses out the gates in wheelbarrows in his classic piece of Communist propaganda, October. Lenin initially supported, but later overturned it and restored the authority of the factory management despite Bolshevik opposition. The reason for it is that it simply didn’t work. Lenin genuinely believed that poorly educated workers would have no trouble running a business, but commonsense simply tells you it isn’t true.

However, workers’ control is an inspiring idea. It continued in Yugoslavia as part of their self-management system, and there are ways in which it certainly could be made to work. One obvious way is to train the worker managers up to a level where they can make informed decisions before they start. Another is through the unions providing them with expert advisers on their behalf. These are just ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure that the people who have really tried it in practice through running cooperatives and have served as trade union officials and shop stewards in negotiations with management have better from their own experience.

We desperately need an element of workers’ control and industrial democracy, if not a full-blown representative chamber for working people in parliament. Working people have seen their rights at worker devastated through forty years of Thatcherism. One of the reasons the Tories have been able to enforce their wages freezes, introduce job precarity, zero hours contracts and the gig economy is that they’ve also destroyed the unions through grossly restrictive legislation. And they’re set to make it worse after Brexit, when they will get rid of all the minimum rights workers’ have under the EU’s Social Charter. Which they’ve been wanting to do for nearly forty years, again since Thatcher.

You don’t have to be as radical as Lenin and the Bolsheviks. But we do need a return of strong trade unions, workers’ representation in the boardroom and a Labour Party that actually stands up for working people.

Don’t Be Fooled – Boris Wants to Strip You of Your Human Rights

September 15, 2020

Mike put up a piece on Sunday commenting on an article in the Sunday Telegraph that our lawbreaking, lawless Prime Minister and his gang intend to withdraw Britain from the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. This has been a goal of the Tories for nearly a decade. Mike was warning about this as long ago as 2013. Cameron was trying mollify us by saying that they’d replace it with a Bill of Rights. Presumably the title of this proposed Tory replacement was chosen to remind everyone of the Bill of Rights that was issued after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This was a piece of revolutionary, progressive legislation in its time. However, any Bill of Rights the Tories pass is going to be a highly-diluted replacement for the Human Rights legislation they’ve repealed. If we see such a bill at all. Mike states that the Torygraph article was behind a paywall, so he couldn’t see it. But what he could made no mention of it.

Don’t be fooled. The Tories are an authoritarian party with a dangerous, Stalin-like cult of personality under Generalissimo Boris. Boris has shown us he’s more than willing to break the law to get what he wants, such as illegally proroguing parliament and deceiving the Queen, and now getting his loyal minions to troop into the lobbies to pass a law breaking our international agreements with the EU. He, and they, are a real, present danger to democracy.

The Tory faithful are no doubt welcoming this as some kind of move that will enable them to deport the illegal immigrants – meaning desperate asylum seekers – they tell us are invading this country. There’s also the long-standing complaint that human rights legislation protects the guilty at the expense of their victims. But Conservative commenters on the British constitution have also quoted the 18th century British constitutional scholar, Lord Blackstone, who said that it was better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man wrongly punished. The Tories do not want to repeal this legislation because they somehow wish to defend Britain from invasion by illegal immigrants, nor because they wish to protect people by making it easier to jail criminals. They want to repeal this legislation because it protects the public and working people.

One of the reasons the Tories hate the EU is because of the social charter written into its constitution. This guarantees employees certain basic rights. Way back when Thatcher was a power in the land, I remember watching an edition of Wogan when the Irish wit of British broadcasting was interviewing a Tory MP. The Tory made it clear he had no problem with the EU predecessor, the EEC or Common Market. This would have been because, as the European Economic Community, it offered Britain a trading area for our goods and services. What he made clear he didn’t like was the Social Charter. He and the rest of the Tories want to get rid of it in order to make it even easier to sack workers at will, and keep them on exploitative contracts that will deny them sick pay, maternity leave and annual holidays. They want more zero hours contracts and job insecurity. As well as the right, as Mike also points out in his article, to persecute the disabled, for which the Tory government has also been criticised by the EU and United Nations.

The Tories have also shown their extreme authoritarianism, like Blair before them, in passing legislation providing for secret courts. If the government considers it necessary because of national security, an accused person may be tried in a closed court, from which the public and the media are excluded, using evidence which is not disclosed to the accused. This breaks the fundamental principles of democratic, impartial justice. This is that justice should not only be done, it should be seen to be done. Hence the traditional practice of making sure people are tried with the public present. The secret courts are far more like the grotesque, perverted judicial systems of Kafka’s novels The Trial and The Castle, and which became a horrific reality in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

The Tories are also keen to undermine British liberty in another way as well, by reintroducing identity cards. These were carried during the War, when Britain was in real danger from Nazi invasion and Fascist spies and saboteurs. But afterwards, as Zelo Street has reminded us, the government withdrew them because they were seen as a threat to traditional British freedom. Now Dominic Cummings wants to bring them back. So did Thatcher when I was at school in the 1980s. She didn’t get very far. It was rejected then, it should be rejected now.

Apparently the new identity cards will be online or something like that. But this won’t make counterfeiting them any more difficult. Way back in the 1990s the Indonesia government, hardly a bastion of liberal democracy, introduced a computerised identity card. This was supposed to be impossible to hack and and fake. Within a week there were fake cards being sold in the country’s markets.

This looks like a step towards the biometric identity cards Blair was also keen on in the late 90s. These were also condemned by privacy campaigners and opponents of state surveillance, and which eventually seem to have petered out. But it seems that the forces that were pressing for them then have now resurfaced to repeat their demands. And if they’re being made by a government determined to ‘get Brexit done’, then these cards cannot be blamed on the EU, as they were when I was at school.

The Tories have also shown themselves intolerant of demonstrations and protests. When Cameron was in power, he sought to stop or limit public demonstrations through legislation that would allow local authorities to ban them if they caused a nuisance. Mass gatherings and protest marches frequently can be a nuisance to those stuck behind them. But they’re tolerated because freedom of conscience and assembly are fundamental democratic rights. Cameron wished to place severe curbs on these rights, all in the name of protecting communities from unwelcome disturbance. And, in the wake of the Extinction Rebellion blockade of Murdoch’s printing works, Priti Patel wishes to have the press redefined as part of Britain’s fundamental infrastructure in order to prevent it from disruption from similar protests in future. Now that newspapers sales are plummeting thanks to the lockdown to the point where right-wing hacks are imploring you to buy their wretched rags, you wonder if she’s considering legislation making their purchase and reading compulsory.

Don’t be deceived. The repeal of the human rights act is an outright attack on traditional British freedoms by an authoritarian government intolerant of criticism and which casually violates the fundamental principles of justice and democracy. It may be dressed up as protecting decent, law-abiding Brits from crims and illegal immigrants, but this is just another pretext, another lie to get the sheeple to accept it. Tony Benn once warned that the way the government behaves to refugees is the way it would like to behave to its own citizens. He was right, and we shall it when the Tories withdraw from the European legislation currently protecting us.

I’ve no doubt the Tories will try to disguise this through retaining a sham, hollowed out semblance of justice, free speech and democracy. Just like the Soviet Union drew up constitutions guaranteeing similar freedoms to disguise its vicious intolerance. On paper communist East Germany was a liberal state and multiparty liberal democracy when the reality was the complete opposite. Even Mussolini made speeches claiming that that Fascist Italy was not a state that denied the individual their liberty.

The Tory withdrawal from EU Human Rights law is an outright attack on our British freedoms, not a gesture of defiance against European interference. It’s another move towards unBritish, but very Tory, despotism and dictatorship.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/09/online-id-cards-polecat-megalomania.html

Angela Rayner Urges People to Join A Union

May 12, 2020

This morning I, along with countless thousands of other Labour party members, got an email from Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. I have to say that I didn’t vote for her in the leadership elections – I voted for Richard Burgon instead as a left-wing, genuinely Labour candidate. But Rayner’s message is one that I can totally get behind. She was urging me, and others like me, to join a union. She wrote

(L)ast night I sat shocked on my sofa as Boris Johnson spoke to our country.

Workers who can’t work from home were encouraged to go back to work – but given no guidance on how to stay safe.

Millions of jobs are impossible to do while 2 metres apart. Millions of us have been given no protective equipment. But David, we don’t have to sit on our sofas and take this.

When I was a care worker on a zero hour contract and poverty pay, I joined a trade union. With my union, alongside my work mates, I won better working conditions. Labour MPs will always fight for workers’ interests, and you can do the same by joining a union. Are you a trade union member?

This crisis has proved the strength of workers when we unite – whether you’re a construction worker or a care giver. It’s proved the power of having a trade union membership card in your pocket.

Trade unions fought for and won the furlough scheme. It’s trade unions who are making sure thousands of workers don’t get laid off during this crisis. In retail, healthcare, catering, building and beyond, union representatives are sorting safety measures like protective equipment, hand washing facilities and enough space to social distance. ​But we can’t rest until every worker does their job in safe and fair conditions.

The Labour Party was founded when working people came together to win. As one movement, we won a 5 day week, equal pay for women and a minimum wage. Together, we will win again.

Angela Rayner

Deputy Leader and Chair of The Labour Party

The question ‘Are you a trade union member?’ was followed by two answers,  ‘No, tell me how’ and ‘Yes – give me advice’. These were linked to the relevant TUC pages. The ‘No’ answer takes you to the TUC page on joining at union at

https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union?source=20200511_UnionLab&subsource=bsd_email&utm_campaign=UnionLab&utm_medium=email&utm_source=bsd

This doesn’t apply to me, as I’m still off work because of the cancer treatment. But it very much applies to everyone fortunate to be employed. Whatever side of the Labour party you’re on, whether you’re left, right, centre or undecided, if you’re a working person you need to join a union. The unions have been there since the late 18th century, when they first appeared in the industrial north, to defend working people’s rights at work and fight for higher wages and better conditions.  The wage freezes and declining working conditions that have produced poverty, job insecurity and starvation in this country are a result of over four decades of right-wing governments doing their best to destroy the unions. And the situation for all too many millions is desperate.

We need to give working people back prosperity, job security and dignity, and that means strong unions. And they can only be made strong by people joining them.

So I urge everyone who can to join a union, because working people need their protection.

Cartoon: Borice KKKooper – Dead Babies

March 30, 2020

Hi, and welcome to another of my cartoons expressing my outrage and disgust at the Tory party and the clown, who currently leads it and, unfortunately, our great nation. I’ve used as the basis for these drawings SF/Horror films and pop songs. This one’s based on another pop star, the Rock legend Alice Cooper. And it is to express my utter disgust at the scandalously high infant mortality rate in Britain.

Cooper became notorious in the ’70s for his weird and disturbing stage act, in which he’d behead dolls and even hang himself. He said in an interview on British television some time ago that some people tried to psychoanalyse his attack, and read a bit too much into it. It was claimed that his destruction of the dolls were a metaphorical attack on babies. Cooper denied that it was any such thing. He just hated dolls. It was, he said, possibly something to do with his sister.

But one of his songs at the time was ‘Dead Babies’, about a mother, who neglects her child so that it dies. It has the line ‘Dead babies don’t need looking after’, and includes the sound of a baby crying. It’s a really disturbing track and I’m really not surprised that Cooper drew criticism. He’s a major figure in Rock, of course, but it has also been claimed that he has also been one of the influences on Goth music through his horrific stage act and equally horrific and bleak songs.

And so it seems to me entirely appropriate to attack BoJob and his wretched party for their part in giving Britain one of the highest infant mortality rates in Europe by showing him as an Alice Cooper figure, with a hanged doll and the title of Cooper’s song. As always, I want to point out that I’m not sneering at Cooper, his music or his fans. Certainly not! But I am sneering and mocking BoJob and the Tories. And the idea of Boris as any kind of pop fan, whether Rock or Punk, as I portrayed him in my last cartoon, is pretty ridiculous. Boris definitely comes across as a classical music fan. Nothing wrong with that, but I suspect that when it came to pop music he would be very much like the judge, who had to ask who the Beatles were.

And unfortunately I can very much see our infant mortality rate getting worse under Johnson. Despite the poverty and hardship inflicted on the economy and Britain’s working people by the Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown, he’s still pushing ahead with his programme of A and E closures. There has been a mass sacking of workers on zero hours contracts, despite claims that this wouldn’t happen. The government has promised to pay workers 80 per cent of their wages if they are unable to work because of the lockdown. But that’s only if their employer agrees. And some of them, like Tim Martin, the head of Wetherspoons, don’t seem to have done. Martin’s apparently told his staff that they can go off and seek work at McDonald’s, if they like. For those made unemployed, there’s still a five-week wait for the money after they claim Universal Credit. Boris has also promised to pay the self-employed 80 per cent of their earnings. But they’ll have to wait until June to get it. For many, that’s going to be too long. As a result, Mike’s reported that people are getting into debt for food just one week into the lockdown.

Tory cuts to the NHS are destroying people’s health, and so is the mass poverty caused by austerity and now the Coronavirus crisis. This will make child poverty and poor health worse, and probably push the infant mortality rate up further, despite the best efforts of our overworked and under-resourced doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

I am also aware that BoJob’s partner is pregnant. I wish her and her baby all the best for a safe, healthy pregnancy and delivery, and that both baby and mother enjoy good health. But I want every mother and their children to have this. And that is one of the reasons why I’ve drawn this cartoon – because they aren’t, thanks to Boris and his vile crew.

Here’s the cartoon. I hope you enjoy it, and don’t have nightmares!

 

‘I’ Newspaper: Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Support Unions and End Exploitative Work Practices

February 11, 2020

This is another excellent piece from Saturday’s I, for 8th February 2020. Written by Richard Vaughan, ‘Long-Bailey to promise no out-of-hours phone calls’ shows that the contender for the Labour leadership intends to restore the power of the trade unions and back them in industrial disputes, as well as removing work practices that damages workers’ mental health. It begins with her pledge to end the demand that workers should be on call 24 hours a day.

Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey will pledge to give workers the right to switch off their phones outside of office hours to help end “24/7 work cultures”.

The shadow Business Secretary committed yesterday to give employees a “right to disconnect” based on the French system, which forces companies with more than 50 staff to allow them to ignore their mobiles during leisure time.

In a further attempt to show her support for workers, Ms Long-Bailey said she would back the right of employees to hold strike action “no questions asked” should she succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Addressing a rally in Sheffield last night, she said the next Labour leader must be “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box.”

“As leader, I’ll put trade unions at the heart of Labour’s path to power, and back workers in every dispute,” she said.

She added that under her stewardship Labour would “back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers”.

She said: “Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative Government.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Long-Bailey said she wanted to remove working practices that were damaging to mental health. “We can all do better with aspirational socialism, through pushing for an end to 24/7 work culture, and with trade unions empowered to negotiate this, we can work hard, be paid for the work we do and keep that precious time with our friends and family, uninterrupted by emails or demands”.

This is precisely the type of leadership working people need. The Tories and New Labour have done their level best to gut the power of the unions, and the result has been the massive increase in in-work poverty. Without strong trade unions, workers have been left stuck with stagnant wages, exploitative working conditions like zero-hours contracts which bar them from receiving sick pay, paid holidays or maternity leave and a culture that allows work place bullying and casual sacking. Blair and Brown were as keen on destroying union power as the Tories, and in denying workers protection against redundancy and short-term contracts, all in the name of workforce ‘flexibility’. Despite his candidacy for the party being backed by one of the unions, when Blair gained the leadership he even threatened to cut the party’s ties to them, a tie that is integral to the Labour Party, if they didn’t back his reforms and programme.

Long-bailey promises to reverse this, restore union power and so empower ordinary working people. Which means that the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media will do everything they can to discredit her. You can expect them to start running stories about the how the ‘strike-hit’ seventies made Britain ‘the sick man of Europe’ until Maggie Thatcher appeared to curb the union barons and restore British productivity and confidence. It’s all rubbish, but it’s the myth that has sustained and kept the Tories and their wretched neoliberalism in power for forty years.

But this is being challenged, and Long-Bailey is showing that she is the woman to end it.

The Tory Attacks on Health and Safety Legislation Is Causing Carnage

January 21, 2020

Since almost as long as I can remember, the Tories and their lackeys in the press have been attacking health and safety legislation. The common reasons trotted out are that it is an unnecessary burden to employers, binding them with complicated red tape and costs. More recently the authors of Britannia Unchained and similar works have demanded that such legislation protecting people at work should be rolled back in order to make Britain more competitive against countries in the Developing World, whose workers don’t benefit by such protection. The Tories have tried to make this assault popular by making health and safety legislation seem not only cumbrous, interfering and bureaucratic, but also massively overprotective and silly. Remember all those stories from the Heil years ago claiming that, thanks to the ‘Nanny state’, schools were having to make children wear goggles before playing conkers?

The truth is that when health and safety legislation was introduced in the ’70s, it massively cut down on deaths and injuries among working people – and that’s basically why the Tories would like to get rid of it. They want labour to be cheap and easily disposable, and health and safety laws are an obstacle to that. And the chapter by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte in The Violence of Austerity by Whyte and Vickie Cooper shows exactly how devastating in terms of lives and injuries their attacks on the legislation has been. The government watchdog in charge of overseeing the implementation of the legislation, the Health and Safety Executive, has had its funding cut by 47 per cent. The Tories have also threatened to close it down altogether. In 2013 the government launched a review in order to see whether there was still a need for its functions and if it complied with good governance. The number of staff employed at the executive fell from 3,702 in April 2010 to 2,706 in December 2013. Since the Tories came to power, the number of inspections by the Executive has fallen by a third.

These cuts have resulted in an increase in work-related accidents and injuries, although the authors warn that the government’s figures are almost certainly too low. The real figures are almost certainly higher. They write

Typically, the official ‘headline figure’ published by the HSE records between 140 and 240 deaths per year resulting from sudden injury and 13,000 deaths caused by occupational diseases and illnesses. Those figures, however, only reflect a small proportion of total deaths caused by work. The first figure does not include key categories of deaths cause by work. The Hazards Campaign estimates that seven times more deaths are caused by work incidents than the figure official cited by the HSE. HSE figures exclude work-related road traffic deaths, the workplace deaths recorded in other industries that the HSE does not have formal responsibility for, like the maritime and civil aviation industries, or deaths to members of the public killed by a work activity, such as scaffold collapses or train crashes. A more complete estimate would also include suicides attributed to work related stress. There are approximately 6,000 suicides involving working-age people in the UK each year, and a number of those involve workers driven to despair by work-related stress. In Japan, where work-related suicides are officially recognised and compensated, it is estimated that 5 per cent of suicides are work-related. This estimate, if applied to the UK, would amount to roughly 300 people killed through work related strees.

In sum, a more complete figure of workplace deaths caused by sudden injury, which takes into account all of the above exclusions, would amount to between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths every year, or 3-4 deaths per day. (p. 142).

They also argue that the estimated number of deaths from occupational diseases are also probably grossly underestimated once recent academic studies are taken into account. For example, a 2005 study of the causes of occupational and environmental cancer by Richard Clapp estimated that about 8-16 per cent of all cancer deaths came from occupational cancer. If the mid-range figure of 12 per cent is taken as the number of occupational deaths from cancer, the number of people dying through work-related cancer is 18,000 per year.

A 2005 paper in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimated tath 15-20 per cent of all cases of COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – could be work related. Which means 6,000 deaths per year. There is also evidence that up to 20 per cent of all deaths from heart disease are related to conditions at work. This figure adds up to 20,000 deaths per year.

A further conservative estimate that diseases in which work can be a contributory cause, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and so on comprise a further 6,000 deaths per annum.

They state

All of this adds up to an overall estimate by the Hazards Campaign of up to 50,000 deaths from work-related illness every year – four times the typical HSE estimate of around 13,000 per year. Our contention then, is that the HSE figures grossly underestimate the number of workers whose current working conditions expose them to both the well-known and the newer risk factors, that will produce the workers deaths of the future. (p. 143).

They also make the point that the death toll is still rising, because of toxins to which people may have been exposed to as much as 40 years previously, such as some carcinogens. The EU has estimated that in the 1990s five million workers, or 22 per cent of the working population, were exposed to cancer-causing substances.

They also argue that, thanks to austerity, more workers are suffering under poor working conditions that are damaging their health. These include bullying and harassment, long hours, and the zero hours contracts imposed on 5.5 million workers. The insecurity these contracts cause are linked to stress, heart and circulatory diseases. Workers are also still exposed to dusts and chemicals that cause or contribute to respiratory and heart diseases. They also point to the connection between low paid work and poor safety standards

Low paid work guarantees more than hardship: low pay goes hand in hand with low safety standards. Occupational injuries and diseases such as diabetes and cancer are directly linked to low paid jobs. (p. 144).

They also make the point that the ‘compensation culture’ the Tories have claimed exists is actually a myth. In fact, many workers don’t receive the compensation to which they’re entitled. They write

One of the first moves of the Coalition government, in October 2010, was to appoint Lord Young, a former Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher, to deliver ‘a Whitehall-wide review of the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture.’ He found absolutely no evidence of this ‘compensation culture’, citing figures which actually showed a downward trend to legal claims, but still demanded action to deal with ‘red tape’. Indeed, figures obtained by Hazards Magazine show that fewer than one in seven people suffering an occupational injury or disease ever receive compensation. For occupational diseases alone, this drops to just one in twenty-six. For most occupational cancers, there is barely any prospect of compensation at all.  (p. 145).

They also show that the government’s division of work into high and low risk is also highly dubious and has resulted in an increase in deaths at work. It was done by Cameron’s government in order to restrict HSE inspections to those jobs considered high risk. But the low risk category is wide, and includes textiles, clothing, footwear, light engineering, road and air transport and docks, electricity generation and the postal and courier services. Hazards Magazine found that 53 per cent of all deaths at work caused by sudden injury were in the low risk sector. Palmer and Whyte state ‘In other words, the government’s fiscal purge of health and safety enforcement has meant abandoning scrutiny of the workplaces where the majority of deaths occur’. (p. 145).

Palmer and Whyte state that this death toll should be a ‘call to arms. to any government, regardless of its political stance. But instead, despite the ‘glaring’ evidence that the red tape is good for workers, employers and the economy, governments have doubled down and insisted that such legislation is an intolerable nuisance. This has reached the point where the HSE doesn’t even both to ask ‘what’s so wrong with red tape anyway?’ The government’s ideological obsession with red tape means that ‘there is no room for argument or evidence that health and safety legislation doesn’t burden business, while its absence carries a high cost to business, workers and the public purse.’

This means that when some rag like the Heil, the Depress, or the Scum claims that health and safety legislation is unnecessary, costly and stifling business, they are lying. And lying to defend an attitude to workplace safety that is murderously dangerous to working people.

But then, as the disabled have found, Tory responsibility for mass injury and death is nothing new.

 

 

Hunger and Starvation in Tory Britain

January 2, 2020

The Tory governments that came in after David Cameron’s victory in the 2010 election have caused massive poverty up and down Britain. Thanks to austerity, welfare benefits have been cut, wages kept low and workers placed on exploitative contracts, like zero hours contracts, which deny them sick pay, paid holidays and other rights. An ever increasing number of people are unable to pay for food, with the disabled and unemployed forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together after being found fit for work, sanctioned, or simply because they have to wait weeks before their first benefits payment. Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity gives some statistics on rising ‘food poverty’, and they’re horrifying.

In the chapter ‘Hunger and Food Poverty’, Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton state

Emergency food provision has been used as an indicator of the scale of food poverty in the UK. As the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty noted in 2015, the Trussell Trust, the largest emergency food provider, ‘has seen the number of people referred for emergency food rise by 38 per cent in the last year’. Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty calculate that 20,247,042 meals were given to ‘people in food poverty’ in 2013/14.’ While these are shocking statistics, they are likely to underestimate the numbers in food poverty in Britain; not all people who are hungry go to food banks and not all food banks collect data in a systematic way. The Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSE UK) 2012 study found that the proportion of households unable to afford two adult meals a day in 2012 stood 3 per cent, ‘back to levels found thirty years earlier having to dropped to negligible levels in the intervening period.’ In addition, well over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to fee them properly, that is, provide at least one of the following three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables every day; or meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least once a day. If many parents were not cutting back on their own food intake to protect their children, the number would be much higher… (pp.94-5).

Analysis by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that falling incomes and rising living costs mean that food is now over 20 per cent less affordable for the poorest 10 per cent of people in the UK compared to 2003. In 2012, when the proportion of the household budget spent on food peaked in the UK, those in the lowest income decile spent 22 per cent more on food than in 2007 and purchased 5.7 per cent less, buying significantly fewer portions of fruit and vegetables than previously. Further, the number of UK adults who have reported being unable to afford meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day (a measure of adequate protein in the diet) has increased between 2004 and 2012, that is, in the context of economic austerity and rising food prices. The PSE UK study noted above found that the proportion of adults going without meat or equivalent every second day  because they could not afford it rose from 2 per cent in 1999 to 5 per cent in 2012. In addition, 3 per cent of children went without adequate protein and the same proportion did not eat fresh fruit or vegetables every day because their families could not afford it. Reduced affordability of food therefore generally leads to a reduction in nutrient quality of food consumed and, in a growing number of cases, to hunger and reliance on emergency food provision. (pp.95-6).

This is a crisis of enormous proportions, and it is going to get worse. Much worse. Boris will continue and expand the policies forcing people into such desperate poverty. But yesterday the wretched Tory press were telling the world that he would bring in a golden age of prosperity. Which he will, for the profiteers at the top of the corporate ladder and the hedge fund managers that contribute so handsomely to Tory coffers.

But to pay for that, the rest of the country will be forced into grinding poverty. While the newspapers lie to them that there’s not alternative and they’re richer than ever before.