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Victory in the High Court but blacklisted workers need a full public inquiry

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The victory this week for blacklisted workers in the High Court marks a significant step forward in the fight for justice.

Unite the Union announced it had reached a settlement with construction companies which will see 256 workers receive more than £10m between them in compensation, for the years of not being able to find work in the industry they were trained.

The GMB union which reached a similar settlement last month, said the total value of compensation in the case was around £75m for 771 claimants, with legal costs on both sides estimated at £25 million.

Aside from the substantial settlements workers will receive, the construction companies responsible were forced into a humiliating apology in court.

The lawyer for the companies said: “The Defendants are here today to offer, through me, their sincere and unreserved apologies to the Claimants for any damage caused. The Defendants apologise as providers of any information and for the loss of employment suffered as a result of communication of information during the operation of the Consulting Association. They also apologise for the anxiety and hurt to feelings caused as a result.”



There has been significant scepticism voiced by the Blacklist Support Group which has been instrumental in achieving this result, as to the sincerity of the apology.

After all these are companies who knowingly and wilfully used information obtained on files kept by the Consulting Association to target workers sometimes for legal trade union and political activity. But many of those blacklisted were not “militant trades’ unionists.”

In some cases workers suffered 20 years of being unable to get a job, lost houses, their families were torn apart and have suffered mental health conditions as a result.

The Consulting Association was raided and closed down in 2009. But this has not stopped companies working together in the construction industry to undermine workers’ terms and conditions.

When I worked for the Morning Star in early 2011, I was the one first national daily newspaper journalists to report on major construction companies’ teaming up to reduce electricians (sparks) pay by up to 35 percent.

This led to a wave of rank and file trade union resistance not seen in decades.

Unofficial action, site occupations and demonstrations would take place weekly for months on end.

I met workers who had suffered blacklisting and were key to providing sparks employed in the industry much needed support as this industrial conflict escalated.

The campaign began with demonstrations outside building sites on the Crossrail project and soon workers were outside the glitzy hotels, interrupting dinners for industry CEOs.

By the end, Unite the union had called a ballot and was launching huge demonstrations in London and unofficial walkouts took place at several sites across the country.

The anti-trade union laws were successfully broken several times and I witnessed industrial workers show great resolve and cool heads under intense pressure from the police when they were kettled and threatened with arrest.

My overriding memory of the dispute was where I covered an early morning demo and site occupation in London. I went to the site manager who had just arrived at 8.45 to start his shift. I asked what he thought about the accusation that employers were planning to doc pay by up to 35 percent. His response was astonishing:

“If it was up to me, I would pay them one pound an hour,” he said in a rage.

I confirmed that he wanted quoting on that and he agreed before scurrying off.

 

 

This attitude is not just something unique to that individual manager but represents that basic contradiction between worker and employer – the fact that the boss is trying to get as much labour for the least amount of money out of the worker. And in contrast, the worker is trying to get more money and better conditions for the work they do.

With the technological advances our society has made in the last 7 years and attitude that profit trumps the need to pay people properly, the possibility of further blacklisting of people at work must be investigated.

As the Blacklist Support Group said on the evening of their outstanding victory:

“[We] …demand a full public inquiry to fully expose the blacklisting human rights conspiracy and the collusion between big business and the shadowy anti-democratic elements within the police. We are hardworking men and women used to getting our hands dirty. We are not giving up until the job is completed.”

 

 

Politics: Does Labour really want to win the election?

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Politics: Does Labour really want to win the election?

What is Ed Miliband playing at?

He apparently relishes the idea of the next 10 months leading into the general election.

Well he clearly is looking to make things harder for himself and the Labour party following his ill-judged Sun newspaper promotion and now the epic own goal that is the youth benefit cut (or as Ed likes to call it, a youth training scheme, which if you don’t do, will see you lose your benefits.)

The scheme launched today is so bad and poorly judged that it is being attacked from the right and the left of the political spectrum.

If you are a pragmatic politician – a value which New Labour expounded constantly throughout its controversial reign, then this policy doesn’t even meet such a low bar.

Under the plans, those aged between 18 and 21 without qualifications equivalent to an A-level or level 3, would have to apply for a new means tested allowance which pays less than the current Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) while undertaking job training.

What they would receive would depend on how rich their parents are.

Only those with the required skills but no job would be entitled to JSA.

The move will affect 100,000 unemployed young people.

Obviously, Miliband is attempting to appeal to the right of the political spectrum and is playing an active role in perpetuating the falsehood that people can’t get jobs because they can’t be bothered or because they haven’t the skills to do such jobs.

Pragmatically, the policy falls at the first hurdle when political commentators on the right, obsessed with austerity and fiscal responsibility for people at the bottom rather than people at the top, have correctly said this will have little impact on the £100bn a year spent on social security.

More importantly the policy is not going to yield results because the unemployment crisis in Britain along with a de-skilled workforce is nothing to do with 18 year olds not being bothered to get educated.

Before becoming a journalist, all of the jobs I had only required a basic level of education, were in the main insecure and low paid.

Having A-levels made no difference to me getting those jobs.

It is not that these jobs did not require skill or hard work – the main problem was they were low paid and insecure.

Despite working for big and well positioned medium sized profitable businesses, I never earned over £16,000 until I was 25.

The only reason I was employed was because quite simply, the job needed doing. If there are, as the statistics show, more would-be workers than jobs, then there will be chronic unemployment.

It is about the design of the economic system, not the determination of the individual or their skill level.

The decline of collective bargaining, the prevalence of job agencies and lack of investment in research and development by employers and successive governments alike has led directly to a loss in skills, lower pay and mass dissatisfaction at work.

It has also meant so-called white collar or office jobs that used to be sought after positions 30 years ago are leaving people feeling undervalued in terms of wages, job security and dignity at work.

You do not have to be a journalist to go out and talk to people, to listen and to get a sense of what they want in terms of jobs and conditions.

It means asking the right questions, not simply playing to the delusion that unemployed people are all shirkers, milking the benefits system when regardless of pay, jobs are plentiful.

The reality is there are 6.1 million people unemployed or underemployed in Britain.

Even taking the government’s own figures with all exceptions and loopholes contained within, the figure stands at 2.2 million.

There are not 2.2 million job vacancies in the economy. This is before we even take into account whether these are temporary or well paid jobs.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicates that the 13 million people are poverty stricken with 6.7 million of those living in a household where someone works.

And people are on average  £1,600 a year worse off, under the current government while transport costs, food, housing, energy and indirect taxation have all risen.

Having just reported on conferences for two Labour affiliated trade unions, Usdaw and the BFAWU, the message from workers from in the food industry was the same; dignity at work and higher wages to keep up with the cost of living.

Given the facts, Labour’s policy is unlikely to work in narrow practical terms or improve Ed’s low standing with the electorate.

This all begs the question; does Labour even want to win the election? A step left toward the roots of the Labour Party would be in the interests of millions currently languishing under austerity.

A continuing drive to the right will ensure five more years of Tory rule.

PRESS RELEASE: Bakers union supports the legalisation of lightning strike action and the re-introduction of secondary picketing.

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PRESS RELEASE: Bakers union supports the legalisation of lightning strike action and the re-introduction of secondary picketing.

Delegates at the union’s annual conference voted unanimously to pressure the Labour Party to reintroduce the right of workers to exercise their democratic right without “restrictive balloting” procedures and reform of the Trade Union Act 1984.

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary said: “I would like to see secondary action re-introduced. It is illegal at present and should be repealed.”

Mr Draper also criticised the TUC leadership for failing to follow through on the issue despite some positive noises.

He said: “The TUC will make the right noises but to carry out anything a bit radical or slightly to the left, it gets short shrift.

“We need workers to rise like lions from the slumber to fight back.”

For further information, contact: BFAWU leader Ronnie Draper 07812739350 // Ronnie.Draper@bfawu.org // @ronniebfawu

To arrange interviews with Ronnie, union President Ian Hodson or union activists during conference, contact John Millington – 07931316547 // jmillingtonjournalist@gmail.com // @johnjournalist

END

Notes to editors

• The BFAWU represents over 20,000 workers in food, baking and allied services industries across the UK and Northern Ireland.
• It is an affiliate to the UK Labour Party.
• The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) is a trade union of workers in the food industry. It was founded in 1847, in Manchester, by a group of Journeymen Bakers.

PRESS RELEASE: Bakers Union Leader urges Ed Miliband to end “light-touch austerity” and produce polices that appeal to core voters.

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PRESS RELEASE: Bakers Union Leader urges Ed Miliband to end “light-touch austerity” and produce polices that appeal to core voters.

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of the Bakers Food Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) made the comments on the second day of the Labour Party-affiliated union’s annual conference in Southport.

Mr Draper said he had a message for Mr Miliband who has a “hell of a job” to win the general election next year.

He said: “We’re not asking for the earth. It is not about being radically left wing. We want a living wage, an end to zero hours contracts unless a worker genuinely wants one, end the dependency on food banks by feeding people properly and repeal of the anti-trade union laws.

“My message to Ed Miliband; make a commitment to build a substantial amount of new houses- that’s a vote winner, promise to keep the NHS free at the point of need – that’s a vote winner.

“And promise to take back our postal service into public ownership – that is a vote winner.”

Turning his attention to industrial relations law, Mr Draper said the UK was the easiest place to sack a worker in the western world.

The recent changes to Employment Tribunals which have seen costs for each tribunal jump to £1,600 and a right to claim unfair dismissal doubled to two years.

He added: “This country is condemned by the International Labour Organisation year on year because we are outside the international norms of industrial relations.

“This government have taken away access to justice. Somebody in McDonalds who is on minimum wage, how can they afford £250 just to register for a hearing, never mind go to a full tribunal?

“It is a scandal.”

The union has been at the forefront of a global campaign for Fast Food Workers Rights which calls for a living wage http://fastfoodrights.wordpress.com/

For further information, contact: BFAWU leader Ronnie Draper 07812739350 // Ronnie.Draper@bfawu.org // @ronniebfawu

To arrange interviews with Ronnie, union President Ian Hodson or union activists during conference, contact John Millington – 07931316547 // jmillingtonjournalist@gmail.com // @johnjournalist

END

Notes to editors

• The BFAWU represents over 20,000 workers in food, baking and allied services industries across the UK and Northern Ireland.
• It is an affiliate to the UK Labour Party.
• The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) is a trade union of workers in the food industry. It was founded in 1847, in Manchester, by a group of Journeymen Bakers.

PRESS RELEASE: BFAWU President calls for General Strike and £10 an hour living wage

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PRESS RELEASE: BFAWU President calls for General Strike and £10 an hour living wage

Ian Hodson, BFAWU president, calls for a general strike against UK government austerity, at the opening of the union’s annual conference at the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre today.

Mr Hodson told Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union delegates that talking and marches could only take workers so far and the time had come for all out action.

He said: “My message to Frances O’ Grady and the TUC is this: We’ve done the marches, attended the rallies and got nowhere. Snappy sound-bites and raising awareness guff has achieved nothing. Stop beating about the bush and make the call for a general strike.”

The wide ranging address singled out food employers such as 2 Sister’s Food Group founder Ranjit Boparan for criticism warning supermarket bosses and others, the union would strike if members’ livelihoods were threatened.

He said: “Mr Boparan’s business model is nothing more than asset stripping, which leaves companies and people tossed aside with total disregard.

“However in David Cameron’s ‘big society’ Britain of hard working people, this kind of behaviour is rewarded. It demonstrates the sheer perverse nature of the business world when making huge profits at the expense of workers is something to be celebrated.

“To those employers who freeze or cut our pay, we will strike, reduce our terms and conditions we will strike, attack our health and safety, we will strike, bring in slave labour workfare schemes, we will strike.”

He criticised the government’s lax approach to health and safety highlighting that one worker dies every 15 seconds in the world, as a result of poor working conditions.

“The fact is that more people are killed at work than on the battlefield, yet this is never reported in the mainstream media,” he said.

Despite the tough economic and political climate, the BFAWU president urged members to look to Hovis workers successful strike against zero hours contracts last year and the global Fast Food Workers campaign calling for a £10 an hour living wage.

He added: “The trade union movement will be judged as to how it responds to these challenges. The bottom line is there are close to 7 million trade union members in the UK that would be virtually unstoppable if mobilised.

The union has been at the forefront of a global campaign for Fast Food Workers Rights which calls for a living wage http://fastfoodrights.wordpress.com/

For further information, contact: BFAWU leader Ronnie Draper 07812739350 // Ronnie.Draper@bfawu.org // @ronniebfawu

To arrange interviews with Ronnie, union President Ian Hodson or union activists during conference, contact John Millington – 07931316547 // jmillingtonjournalist@gmail.com // @johnjournalist

END

Notes to editors

• The BFAWU represents over 20,000 workers in food, baking and allied services industries across the UK and Northern Ireland.
• It is an affiliate to the UK Labour Party.
• The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) is a trade union of workers in the food industry. It was founded in 1847, in Manchester, by a group of Journeymen Bakers.

PRESS RELEASE: Bakers union comes to Southport NEXT WEEK

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PRESS RELEASE: Bakers union comes to Southport NEXT WEEK

BAKERS FOOD AND ALLIED WORKERS UNION NATIONAL CONFERENCE AT THE SOUTHPORT THEATRE & CONVENTION CENTRE, MERSEYSIDE, PR9 ODZ

Sunday 8th – Thursday 12th June

World famous British actor and political activist Ricky Tomlinson will address hundreds of union members from the food industry on MONDAY 9th JUNE 1.30pm about blacklisting and opposing government austerity.

Leading Labour MP and BFAWU Parliamentary leader John McDonnell will report to union members on the battle to reduce temperatures in the workplace which have long term health implications for workers.

The union has been at the forefront of a global campaign for Fast Food Workers Rights which calls for a living wage http://fastfoodrights.wordpress.com/

For further information, contact: BFAWU leader Ronnie Draper 07812739350 // Ronnie.Draper@bfawu.org // @ronniebfawu

To arrange interviews with Ronnie, union President Ian Hodson or union activists during conference, contact John Millington – 07931316547 // jmillingtonjournalist@gmail.com // @johnjournalist

END

Notes to editors
• The BFAWU represents over 20,000 workers in food, baking and allied services industries across the UK and Northern Ireland.
• It is an affiliate to the UK Labour Party.
• The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) is a trade union of workers in the food industry. It was founded in 1847, in Manchester, by a group of Journeymen Bakers.

European Elections: “Why I’m standing for NO2EU.”

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As millions go to the polls to vote in the European elections today, scepticism of the European Union is at an all time high.

NO2EU North West candidate, George Waterhouse explains why he believes withdrawal from the EU is in the best interest of workers.

Why are you standing for NO2EU?

I’m standing for NO2EU because I am sick and tired of the neo-liberal one way street that is enforced as part of the conditions of membership of the European Union. This means privatisation, austerity and the destruction of effective trade unionism. Being in the EU removes our national sovereignty and prevents us from pursuing the economic policies we want to. Neo-liberalism has been a disaster. The rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer.

What are your aims by standing on this platform?

We want to strengthen our publicly owned services and renationalise that which has been privatised. We want the state to have the freedom to intervene and invest in British manufacturing. These are illegal policies if you are a member of the EU.

 What distinguishes NO2EU from other left parties like TUSC, the Greens and Labour?

Unlike other left-wing parties we are anti-EU and want a referendum. Other parties profess a wish to reform the EU-but how can this be achieved? What structures are there by which we can reform it? The EU was, is and forever will be a neo-liberal bosses organisation dedicated to the free movement of goods, capital and labour. It sees public services, nationalised industry, the welfare state and effective trade unions as a block on this, and wants to destroy them. Yet the EU is so corrupt, so undemocratic that it will forever be this way.

NO2EU has been accused on nationalism – what do you say that?

NO2EU wants out of the EU because of democracy, we want our government to have the power to introduce popular policies, such as the re-nationalisation of transport, energy and utilities-that are outlawed by the terms of EU membership. That is not nationalism that is common sense.

How are you different to UKIP?

UKIP wants out because it hates foreigners, we want out because we think the race to the bottom promotes hatred of foreigners.
We want to be part of Europe, we want to have links with Europe, but a Europe of independent, sovereign states with the freedom to build equal and happy societies, not the beggar my neighbour capitalism that the EU promotes. In fact this view is shared by countless brothers and sister across Europe, trade unionists and campaigners who we have stood together with outside the gates of the EU parliament in Brussels, standing against EU enforced austerity and privatisation.

How likely would a yes vote be in an EU referendum?

Polls currently suggest that the British public favour withdrawal, but you can be assured that, like the 1975 referendum, all the resources of international capitalism would be poured into the campaign to keep us in their favoured body that does so much to promote the interests of the bankers over the people in general.