Qatar: Concern grows for missing human rights investigators

Posted on

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.

unnamedITUC leader Sharan Burrow

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.”

Athletics: Pavey and Way blaze a trail at 40

Posted on Updated on

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.

Jo Pavey winning bronze in Glasgow

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.

Steve Way on the BBC

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.”

Austerity: Unions agree coordinated strike action on October 14th against pay freeze

Posted on

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.

Gaza: Eight journalists killed by Israeli bombing

Posted on

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

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

Posted on Updated on

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”

Posted on Updated on

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   

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on Updated on

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.