#TUC14: Chuka Umunna’s pro-worker, pro-business agenda means one thing for trade unionists – business as usual.
Have you heard the news?
Workers and bosses have the same interests. That’s right. The biggest and most significant social divide in capitalist Britain today, the key battleground between those who produce the wealth and those who own it is apparently no longer an issue.
According Labour leading light Chuka Umunna MP, you can be pro-worker and pro-business.
The shadow business secretary’s speech to the trade union faithful at TUC yesterday was strong on style, smooth on delivery and almost totally devoid of anything positive for trade unionists to take back to their workplaces.
As Chuka said: “A strategic and strong pro-worker, pro-business agenda that has us all working together- employers, trade unions and government – to ensure the UK and all our people succeed – it is the only way we will rise to the challenge of building a new economy.”
Some might say what’s wrong with trying to work together?
Negotiations between business and workers’ representatives are part and parcel of any workplace where unions are recognised by their employers.
But what determines the result – whether a wage rise, freeze or cut is who has the industrial power- is who holds the balance of forces within those negotiations.
It has little to do with common endeavour or mutual interest.
Businesses are by design working towards greater profit accumulation.
They demand higher productivity and would ideally like to pay the least possible to secure longer hours and reduced costs in terms of safety.
Workers on the other hand are striving for higher pay for doing fewer hours. Through this clash, every workplace in Britain determines the wage levels and whether people keep or lose their jobs.
It is a reality the Labour front bench, including Umunna are well aware of but refuse to engage because it would mean backing one side or the other.
Instead, the shadow business secretary said: “Labour is a political party built on the power of common endeavour, the value of collaboration, the importance of solidarity, respecting people’s rights and ensuring they have a voice.”
Some might say the Labour Party – founded by Keir Hardie and others, was created to give POWER to change society for workers not simply to be a voice at the table.
And the use of the word collaboration did not go down well with some of the delegates.
On a positive note, Umunna did talk about blacklisting and employment tribunals, which was welcomed by some.
But there is a difference between fundamental legal workers rights and the exercising of industrial power to put workers’ on the front foot.
Umunna’s speech was about putting workers in their place, where they will be legally accepted so long as they dance to the tune of the boss and give him a hug every once in a while.
KONP PRESS RELEASE: Keep Our NHS Public welcomes #march4nhs to London, warning Cameron the Tories risk loosing election if NHS privatisation continues
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday 6th September
KONP co-chair Sue Richards will pay tribute to NHS marchers arriving in London today and will warn David Cameron that his NHS “reforms” will cost the Tories crucial votes at the next election
The Peoples March for the NHS which has criss-crossed the country for 300 miles arrives in London for a huge rally in Trafalgar Square.
Beginning in Jarrow on August 6th, the demonstration has followed the same route taken by Jarrow marchers campaigning against unemployment and extreme poverty in 1936.
Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) have been supporting the march throughout and have called for renewed campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which would lead to health and social services being permanently provided on a market basis across the EU, including in the UK.
In her speech at the rally in Trafalgar Square at 3.30pm, KONP chair Sue Richards will say:
“KONP welcomes the fantastic work by the 300 milers and the Darlo women who started it all off. You have touched a nerve and helped to wake up the public to the danger that they will lose one of the things they care about, the NHS, unless they do something about it.
“To the Prime Minister David Cameron, I say: you have made a lot of mistakes. Your biggest mistake was to think you could take the NHS away from the people of this country. They will tell you next May just how wrong you were.
“This fantastic work needs to continue and one of the best ways of doing that is by joining Keep Our NHS Public. Get involved and save the NHS from privatisation. Start petitions, set up pavement stalls, do whatever it takes to make saving the NHS the top issue in next year’s general election.”
Accusing the Conservative led government of trying to create a “Third World basic minimum service,” Richards will say: “They want a dog eat dog service for a dog eat dog society. We do not want to live like that. The sixth richest country in the world can afford to give all of its people a proper health service. We demand it.”
For further press comment, contact Professor Sue Richards on: 07407 379194
Notes to editors
- “KONP campaigns against the privatisation of the NHS in
the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and for a publicly owned, publicly
accountable, publicly provided and comprehensive NHS .”
- KONP is the longest running NHS campaign, founded in 2005 http://www.keepournhspublic.com/
Low pay and job insecurity are the key issues facing workers in the fast food sector.
For decades, companies like McDonalds and KFC have been asserting their market dominance in a sector full of manipulative advertising and unhealthy but tasty food.
Documentaries like Supersize Me by Morgan Spurlock helped lift the lid on the McDonald’s empire’s Big Macs and fries.
However a more sinister underbelly exists at the fast food giants, where despite making billions of dollars in profits each year from the labours of their hard up staff, US fast food workers are getting a raw deal.
Now they want their fair share and today are taking to the streets in a mass show of strike action and civil disobedience.
The #fastworkersrights campaign which centres on a $15 living wage has helped inspire activism here in Britain.
With social media, union issues are at least being put on the online map bypassing in many cases the mainstream media.
So much so, food workers union the BFAWU is now calling for a £10 an hour living wage in Britain.
President Ian Hodson said:
“In the UK we have a huge problem with low pay and like the US we now find taxes being used to support poverty wages through in work benefits it’s immoral and wrong that a company refuses to pay a wage it’s workers can live on and it’s wrong that workers are being forced to take strike action to get a living wage.”
But it is not just workers and bosses who must come to an agreement but the political elite should step in says Hodson.
“For too long politicians have ignored what these hugely profitable corporations have been doing for fear of impacting on their political donations but if the politicians want to listen and the company’s won’t play fair then strikes and civil disobedience becomes a necessity and we send our support and solidarity to all those taking part in today’s action in the US,” he said.
With Britain in the grip of a Tory government and a fast approaching general election, unions are divided over what to do next.
This years’ TUC in Liverpool will see unions big and small debate the key issues facing the union movement.
BFAWU general secretary Ronnie Draper leads a small but dynamic union affiliated to the Labour Party but avidly socialist in principle.
The union has been successful in winning key deals for members despite claims of poverty from rich employers in the food industry.
And members in Wigan achieved national notoriety for their civil disobedience and direct action tactics at Hovis last year.
Rather than seeing it as a militant action, Draper sees such tactics as part of the armoury that a trade union has.
And as such, if the time is ever right, the labour movement should consider a coordinated general strike across Britain.
He said: “The principle of a general strike is a good principle. I much prefer a negotiated settlement that gives people the standard of living that is there human right to have. But everything we have won, pensions, decent pay, we have had to fight for.”
Fully aware he needs a Labour government to not only win the next election out right but to have a programme that would satisfy the needs of working people, he says Ed Miliband should be listening to workers not big business.
“They are giving us lite-touch austerity as the only option,” he said.
“What we have to do is be brave as a movement. We’re not looking for them to be radically left wing. We want policies that will ultimately appeal to voters.”
For Draper these include a living wage, stopping zero-hours contracts unless agreed individually by the staff member and an end to a dependence on foodbanks.
It’s hardly a radical manifesto. But they are policies that would have an immediate effect on millions of people suffering under austerity.
Proud of his Labour Party roots, Draper says his commitment to the socialist cause and the party’s drift to the right have only strengthened his resolve.
He added: “What I am asking for is something we can do. Without investment in working people, there can be no successful businesses.”
Two British human rights campaigners, investigating the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar have gone missing.
Ghimire Gundev and Krishna Upadhyaya were last seen on Sunday when they sent panicked texts to colleagues saying they were being followed by police.
Speaking to ITV News, the Norwegian charity employing the men said it had yet to receive any information from the Qatari authorities despite numerous requests.
“Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) is deeply concerned that these employees, both British citizens, may have been subjected to enforced disappearance and are currently at risk of torture,” said a spokesperson.
Qatar which is due to host the 2022 football World Cup, has faced international condemnation for its treatment of Nepalese migrant workers and the Kafala system, allowing the employer to have visa and legal rights over foreign labourers.
Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) general secretary said “Qatar seems to think that creating a climate of fear and intimidation will somehow turn the eyes of the world away from its modern slavery economy. Hundreds of migrant workers, many of them women, are languishing in Doha’s detention centres simply for running away from abusive and violent employers. Foreign journalists have been detained for trying to report the truth, and state repression is actually increasing in a country that already showed no respect for basic human rights and legal standards.”
FIFA is pushing ahead with preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with meetings scheduled for 8 September on whether to hold the event in summer or winter.
Ms Burrow added: “FIFA appears to have forgotten about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of migrants building the World Cup infrastructure, with a least one worker losing their life every day. Even the cosmetic changes to the kafala system of servitude have been put back for as much as 18 months while the local Chamber of Commerce decides if it will allow even these so-called reforms to see the light of day. FIFA should vote again on who should host in 2022 rather than dancing to the tune of corporate sponsors and multinational construction firms at the expense of some of the world’s most exploited workers.”
Another box ticked in the 2014 summer of sport with the closing of an outstanding Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The “friendly games” lived up to its reputation – a great competition underpinned by a spirit of fair play.
Drug suspensions and the controversial comments by Usain Bolt didn’t distract from great performances in the 800m by Nijel Amos and hometown favourite Eilidh Child grabbing an emotional 400m silver medal.
But as an (at the moment) average club athlete, it was two 40 year old’s who stole the show for me – Steve Way and Jo Pavey.
Pavey has been a favourite amongst all British athletes for her battling mentality and bravery in taking on runners who are on paper superior athletes.
But the essence of sport is competition.
In that battle, it is what happens on the night that counts.
Although giving birth only 10 months ago, Pavey tracked her Kenyan opponents before unleashing a blistering sprint finish – something she is not famous for – to claim an incredible bronze.
And with characteristic modesty, she took to the cameras to declare that mothers everywhere were capable of great sporting achievements.
Steve Way unlike Pavey who has run all her life, was 7 years a go, 16.5 stone, smoking 20 a day and a regular drinker who took up running to lose weight and get healthy.
Now a top distance athlete, his time of 2hrs 15 mins in the marathon and with it a 10th place – is unbelievable given his background.
One wonders how good he could have been if he’d started sooner.
Working a 9-5 job and running 140 miles a week would be an achievement in itself. But for Steve to turn that training into elite level performance takes something special.
Pavey and Way have both proven it is never too late to pursue sporting dreams.
And to all those who say running is ‘boring,’ the late great Steve Prefontaine summed it up perfectly:
“Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.”
Three of Britain’s biggest unions have agreed to escalate their dispute over pay with a coordinated strike in October, days before a massive demonstration against cuts.
The three unions – GMB, UNISON and Unite, have agreed that their members will run a coordinated strike of their local government and school members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on Tuesday 14 October.
Local government workers have suffered three years of a pay freeze, followed by a below inflation pay deal and have now been offered just 1%.
They have seen their pay reduced in value by 20% since 2010.
Workers took part in a one day stoppage on 10 July.
No further talks have taken place since that date, despite the unions offering to go to the Government’s arbitration and conciliation service.
UNISON Head of Local Government, Heather Wakefield, said:
“Employers and Government must be left in no doubt that we are serious in this dispute. As sister unions, we stand together to make sure that our members are treated with decency and respect. Our members cannot afford to carry on propping up local services through their pay packets. Many are low paid women who are being forced to resort to food banks and payday loan sharks just to survive. We need to put the heart back into local government by paying a living wage.”
GMB National Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:
“Our members in GMB, UNISON and Unite expect us to maximise our joint effectiveness and that’s why we are announcing thenext strike together. Our members deserve a fair pay deal and we have to fight together to achieve that. Council leaders should reconsider their parsimonious pay offer and do the right thing by their staff.”
And Unite National Officer, Fiona Farmer, said:
“Local government workers have had years of real pay cuts, working harder to deliver vital local services while being paid less and struggling to make ends meet. Low paid members unable to afford basis essentials are having to choose between heating and eating. On 1st October the National Minimum Wage will overtake local government pay scales, we need Fair Pay not Poverty Pay.”
Local Government workers taking strike action will include care workers, librarians, cleaners, environmental health officers, street cleaners, home carers, parks and recreation workers, teaching assistants and school meals workers and refuse workers.
Two Palestinian journalists were reported dead yesterday following another day of Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza strip.
According the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) – an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, the two media workers died from Israeli artillery shelling of Shojayah market yesterday evening, while another journalist was seriously injured.
They were reporting on an initial shelling of the market when they were caught up in a second bombardment.
Sameh Al-Aryan, 26, who worked for the Al-Aqsa TV Channel, died of the wounds he sustained in the attack, while photojournalist Rami Rayan, 25, who worked for the Palestinian Media Network, was also killed.
Photojournalist Hamed Shobaky, who works for the Manara Media Production Company, was severely wounded in the same incident.
A total of 18 civilians and medical workers died and 200 were injured in the Shojayah market shelling.
Ahed Zaqout, 49, a presenter on Palestine TV sport programmes, was also killed in a bombing attack carried out by an Israeli war jet on the Italian tower in Gaza City. He was killed in his apartment.
IFJ President Jim Boumelha said: “We express our anger and condemnation at the killing of these journalists, the latest victims in this ongoing cycle of intimidation, violence and murder against media workers in Palestine,”
“We send our heartfelt sympathies to their family and friends and we offer our continued support and solidarity to our colleagues in the PJS and all media workers in Gaza as they continue to suffer through this appalling Israeli barrage. Enough is enough: the killing must end now and Israeli must be held accountable for these atrocities.”
The IFJ is writing to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to remind the organisation of its international obligation to protect journalists. The IFJ and the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ) have also agreed to send a joint international mission to Gaza as soon as there is a ceasefire.
Photo caption: Journalists Sameh Al-Aryan (left) and Ramu Rayan, who were killed yesterday in the Israeli shelling of Shojayah market