Gaza: 20 local journalists missing as Palestine death toll tops 700

At least 20 journalists covering the unfolding incursion and bombing of Gaza have gone missing, the Palestine Journalist Syndicate reported today.

The news comes as the death toll in Gaza passes 700, many of them children.

35 Israelis have been killed, 32 of them soldiers.


An activist holds aloft the flag of Palestine at a recent London peace demonstration 

Reporting on the massacre by the Israeli military is fraught with danger and attacks on journalists have already been reported.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman also accused the Al-Jazeera network of encouraging “terrorist acts” and is looking into the possibility on an all out ban on journalists from the channel.

International Federation of Journalists President Jim Boumelha said: “As each day goes by we learn of more and more incidents where journalists reporting in Gaza are being intimidated, attacked and murdered.

“Too many journalists and media workers have been injured or killed in the line of duty already, and if this violence continues then more lives will surely be lost. Israeli authorities must control their forces and end this abuse of power now.”

In Britain,  National Union of Journalists parliamentary group leader John McDonnell MP, has written a letter to UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond to put pressure on Israel to secure journalists reporting from the area.

It says: “The vital role journalists play in documenting the horrors being inflicted, primarily on the population in Gaza, is crucial and must be urgently defended by our government.”

The Trade Union Congress have also called for trade unionists to support the ‘stop the massacre in Gaza’ demonstration in London on Saturday 26 July starting at 12 noon outside the Israeli embassy.

The journalists displaced in Gaza so far include:

Journalists from Khan Younis

·         Ahmad Fayyad

·         Mohammed Fayyad

·         Ibrahim Fayyad

·         Mahmoud Alathamneh

Journalists from Abasan

·         Hatem Abu Daqqa

·         Fuad Abu Hamad

From central Gaza

·         Imad Abdalrahman

From Beit Hanoon

·         Nael Hamoudeh

From Nseirat

·         Mahmoud El-Louh

From Jabalya

·         Sami Abusalem

Journalists from Shojaeyah

·         Hanadi  Ahmad

·         Ziyad Awad

·         Mirvat Abu Jame’

·         Bothyna Shtewi

·         Ala’ Shmali

·         Mohammed Moheisen

·         Moemen Qoreiqe’

·         Majdi Qoreiqe’

·         Ala’ Abu Shanab

·         Ahed Farawneh

·         Majed Habib

Gaza: Trade unionists in Palestine label Israel bombing “genocide”

Palestine trade unionists accused the Israeli government of attempted “genocide” and condemned the “massacre of defenceless people” in Gaza, during a protest at a prison in Ramallah in the West Bank today.

The Ofer Prison is run by the Israel Prison Service and used to be operated by the Israel Defense Forces‘ Military Police Corps.


Haider Ibrahim – general secretary of the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW), which organised the protest, expressed his solidarity with workers and the people of Palestine in Gaza and condemned the “excessive massacres perpetrated against civilians and the bombing of houses and destruction of infrastructure and targeting of land and buildings in densely populated areas.”

Mr Ibrahim called on the international community to bring to trial “enemy terrorist generals”  who he believes are responsible for “massacres” in Gaza.


The GUPW which is affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), added that the blockade of Gaza should be immediately lifted.

A temporary ceasefire is in place to allow humanitarian aid to reach the stricken population of Gaza.

More than 200 Palestinians, most of them civilians have been killed during the Israeli bombardment with over 1000 injured.

One Israeli citizen has been killed due to Hamas rocket fire.


The peaceful protest was later broken up by the Israeli Defence Force and prison authorities, with demonstrators accusing them of firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

UK Economy: For the unemployed, it is like a game of musical chairs   

To listen to the Prime Minister and the Tory faithful at Prime Minister’s Questions today, you’d think Britain was a land of jobs a plenty, little poverty and charting a course to prosperity.

The baying mob on the government benches were reacting to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on the state of the labour market.

On the surface, the situation looks promising and appears to show a partial recovery.

According to the official statistics, 30.64 million people are in work, 254,000 more than for December 2013 to February 2014 and 929,000 more than a year earlier.

The employment rate continued to rise, reaching 73.1% for March to May 2014.

It last reached 73.1% in December 2004 to February 2005 and, since records began in 1971, it has never been higher.

And there are 2.12 million unemployed people, 121,000 fewer than for December 2013 to February 2014 and 383,000 fewer than a year earlier with the unemployment falling to 6.5% for March to May 2014, the lowest since October to December 2008.

So what’s the problem, I hear you ask?

The problem is the low pay, skill and insecure and part time nature of the jobs.

TUC leader Frances O’Grady points out: “If all the recovery can deliver is low-paid, low-productivity jobs – many of which don’t offer enough hours to get by – then it will pass most working people by and Britain’s long-term economic prospects will be seriously diminished.”

Wages have fallen behind price and inflation rises too.

Average pay including bonuses only rose by 0.3pc in the three months to May, down from 0.7pc growth in the months to April.

This equates to a real wage cut of 1.2pc, since Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation in the year to May was 1.5pc.

It is even higher if you measure inflation by the Retail Price Index (RPI.)

Economic expert Professor Roger Seifert insists that it is no good to merely rely on statistics but to look for the reality behind them.

He said: Today’s figures, when unpacked, reveal a sorry story of stagnation, uneven economic trends, and no evidence of a sustainable recovery since the 2008 crash.


“Those deemed to be in work include a vast army of part-timers, some on the infamous zero-hours contracts, and others who are full-time but insecure.


“It also fails to measure the waste of skills and energy with large numbers of workers unable to develop their full potential in their current work.”

There is another group of people who are often overlooked – the “economically inactive.” This category includes the long term sick, students, unpaid carers and people who retired before 64 years old.

They are people without a job who have not actively sought work in the last four weeks and/or are not available to start work in the next two weeks

The TUC calculated that if you count those who want to and are able to work but do not fit the government’s criteria of “actively seeking work” then the true unemployment and underemployment rate stands at 6.1 million.



Professor Seifert concludes: “Overall the government’s policies have failed to set up a recovery, have failed to develop investment, have failed to improve productivity, and have failed to even out the regional and sectional imbalances in the social and economic life of the nation.


“This is all made worse by dismissal figures on earnings and particularly of the earnings of young workers.


“The Labour leadership, along with the TUC, need to explain how and when they will change this and drive up earnings as the start up for a sustainable, just, and planned recovery.”


Even if you accept the current unemployment figures of 2.12 million, then are only 648,000 vacancies for would-be workers to fill.

The UK economy for the unemployed is rather like a game of musical chairs; when the music stops, there will always be someone who goes without.


Strike action could hit Food Standards Agency as Unison moves to ballot members

Meat hygiene inspectors, vets and support staff working for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be balloted for strike action over an imposed pay offer of 0.75%, Unison announced today. 

Ballot papers will be sent out next week to more than 500 Union members working for the FSA in England, Wales and Scotland.

Union representatives are seeking an above inflation pay increase that would begin to make up some of the 15% that has been lost from the pay packets of FSA staff under the Coalition government. 


Tony Rabaiotti, West Midlands Regional Manager said:

“Our members working for the Food Standards Agency do a vital job to ensure that the meat on our plates is free from disease and safe to eat. They have an enormous responsibility in maintaining consumer health, and it is right that they receive a pay increase that is at least in line with inflation.

“We are calling on the Food Standards Agency to come back to the negotiating table with a better offer. It is an insult that the FSA has chosen to impose below inflation pay awards two years in a row, with no real consultation, which represents a massive cut to people’s pay and pensions. It is time to take a stand and we are urging members to vote yes to strike action.”

Meat hygiene inspectors, vets and the finance and administrative staff at the FSA are responsible for physically inspecting carcasses in slaughterhouses to ensure that diseases and abnormalities are prevented from entering the food chain.




Living Wage success: Sheffield University to pay staff £7.65 an hour

Campaigners celebrated today after Sheffield University announced they would pay staff the living wage of £7.65 an hour.

The move will benefit 400 staff and comes after lobbying from the Sheffield University Living Wage Campaign, trade unions and the local MP.

Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield, who recently spoke in the House of Commons on the problems created by low pay, welcomed the decision: “The University is one of Sheffield’s major employers and is sending out a powerful message by committing to introduce the living wage, and I hope that others will follow their lead.

“Paying the living wage is an important step towards ending poverty pay and growing income inequality.”


Unlike the minimum wage which is £6.31 an hour, the living wage is re-calculated each year, taking into account any rise in the cost of living.

Currently the living wage is £8.10 in London and £7,65 across the rest of the country.

But the increased wage will not apply to the staff working at the students’ union.

Yael Shafritz, Sheffield University Student’s Union President, said: “The Students’ Union are thrilled that the university has decided to take this step in paying fairer wages.

“The living wage is not just a pragmatic response that helps staff, it is a moral imperative for any values led organisation. We’re happy to work with a university that not only values its entire staff but listens to the concerns of its students and workers.

“We also want to highlight that although this is a great step it is only the first one and we will continue campaigning and working with the university to ensure it provides the support and funding for all Unicus and Student Union staff to be paid the living wage.”


Olivia Blake, Co-Chair of the Sheffield University Living Wage Campaign, said:
“We are disappointed that the university has decided against giving the Students’ Union the funding necessary to implement the living wage as well.

“While this is a partial victory we will continue to campaign for Students’ Union and contracted staff. We will not consider this a job done until they are paid at least the living wage.”


Reshuffle: ‘Gove Out’ is a hollow victory for education campaigners

For a man who has had an online game dedicated to slapping him millions of times, it is some what of an achievement that Michael Gove has lasted as long as he has.

Derided by teachers and the butt of jokes over his condemnation of strike action despite his union past (he was a member of the NUJ and took part in a strike), Gove it seems could not weather the final storm.

The recent public sector strikes which included thousands of teachers, Gove, rather than the Prime Minister, was the focal point for hatred and ridicule.

He has been an important fall guy for the Prime Minister, taking the flak over education “reforms” as well as a friend of Cameron’s prior to parliament and a close ideological and political ally in cabinet.

There have been rumours about leadership challenges to David Cameron, possibly from Gove himself but this reshuffle is about being seen to be changing things, while mission privatise education, privatise NHS, will continue unabated.

This becomes even more clear when you look at Gove’s replacement, Nicky Morgan.

The Oxford graduate and former corporate lawyer has a classic Tory voting record. She is a party loyalist who only voted against the government in opposition to gay marriage legislation in a free vote.

*Click here to see how she has voted:

Among her other highlights, she voted strongly for reducing the rate of corporation tax and voted strongly against a banker’s bonus tax.

She voted in favour of £9,000 tuition fees and strongly favours academies and so-called “free” schools.

A trustee of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, Morgan said in an interview about being a woman in politics in 2011:

“Thatcher was a very strong role model and she was one of the reasons I joined the Conservative Party.”

What Morgan will bring is a change of personality – she has criticised Tory backbenchers in the past for overly negative campaigning and using “the language of hate” over immigration.

However, education campaigners will not be holding their breath for a reversal in government policy.

By changing the education secretary Cameron has made a smart triple pronged manoeuvre; He has rid himself of a potential rival, quelled criticism that he doesn’t promote enough women to senior cabinet posts and can almost be certain education campaigners can not make Morgan a hate figure like they did with Gove before the general election next year.

Gove is gone but his legacy is in safe hands.

Black Country Day: Big in spirit, short on jobs

On the first ever Black Country day to celebrate Britain’s beating heart at the epicentre of the industrial revolution, it is easy to get lost in the fanfare of nostalgia and to believe all is well.




The Black Country has much to be proud of.

Originally the term“Black Country” was in reference to the dark skies from the plumes of smoke coming from factories and mines, stretching all the way back to 1840 through to the late 1980’s.

People argue over what the real borders of the Black Country are but the government recognises the area today as the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

I grew up in Wolverhampton and have family in Brierley Hill and Dudley.

From a young age I identified with being a “Black Country mon”, the accent, the dialect and being able to play jokes on friends from Birmingham who had no idea what I meant by “bostin fittle.”

It is also the sense of community pride and belonging that the term Black Country evokes now.

I have fond childhood memories of seeing my dad before his shift at a local factory or just coming back from a night shift at work as I got ready for school.

The area is known for its diversity and acceptance of different cultures – to the point where over the years cultures came together and combined under the umbrella of being part of the Black Country.

Our local pub with its traditional Banks’s bitter and Polish kitchen and the local Indian curry house are a testament to that.

However in a period economic crisis, unemployment and low pay, the Black Country is suffering like every other former industrial heartland in Britain.

The area had already been de-industrialised by the beginning of the 1990’s.

One only has to take a train from Birmingham to Wolverhampton to witness the miles of empty factories and storage depots which have now replaced vibrant productive industry.

The short spell of service sector jobs that took the place of heavy industry up untill the 2008 economic crash, are now too on the wane.

Wolverhampton – once the jewel in the crown of the modern Black Country – now has a town centre littered with empty shops and pound stores.

Unemployment in the Black Country reached 11.2 percent at the end of last year with statistics out today showing that the wider West Midlands have 46,646 more people unemployed than in 2008.

The new Jaguar Land Rover plant with 1,400 jobs is a welcome addition to Wolverhampton but won’t even dent the unemployment levels in the city.

When there is a lack of prospects social strife and community breakdown follow.

Areas like Whitmore Reans where I live have always had a hard edge and a bad reputation.

But the levels of poverty, prostitution and alcoholism are now out in the open, creating a nasty atmosphere on a daily basis.

Every day dozens of different people can be seen drinking the strongest cider out of bottles and cans from 10am till well into the evening.

It is not that everyone who suffers strife turns to the bottle but the visual increase is noticeable and shocking.

None of these facts or observations diminishes the Black Country and the enduring spirit of its people.

Great events like the recent Compton Hospice sponsored walk and the Race for Life at West Park are a small example of the public spirited nature of the local community.

But the Black Country needs investment – investment in hi-tech manufacturing jobs, investment in its workers with a living wage of at least eight pounds an hour and investment in social infrastructure such as housing.

All this is only possible under a government prepared to collect the £120bn lost to the treasury each year from tax evasion and avoidance by the wealthy and big business, in order to secure the funds to launch a mass investment programme to get Britain up and running again.

The Black Country could be the engine room of a second revolution – one of 21st century manufacturing and long term economic security for generations to come.