UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The future of unionised work is in our own hands

Union activists all over the world should read this account of the life of Shonda Roberts who works for KFC in San Jose, California. She lives in the richest economy in the world, the richest economy actually in the history of the world. This is an economy that sends armies and navies all over the world, that still maintains thousands of stock piled nuclear weapons, that generates trillions of dollars in investment and profit, that can boycott Cuba and subsidise Israel. This economy can maintain a differential between lowest paid workers wages and CEO of an average of 1 dollar to 475 dollars. The US economy can cause bust or boom across Europe. It can plunge the world in depression when its sub prime market collapses.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Unions in 2014 - big chance or no chance?

In a Guardian interview over the holiday period TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady was upbeat on union prospects next year: ‘Our big chance will be in 2014 because we are going to see confidence return as unemployment dips and the economy recovers’. Not for the first time the TUC is looking to the USA for a campaign model - where unions such as SEIU have formed impressive worker led coalitions of civic groups and local politicians in support of workers’ rights in fast food chains.
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/26/tuc-frances-ogrady-rebuild-union-membership

Friday, 27 December 2013

A Christmas Tale from King’s (Cross) - A Wise Man Writes...

Even UNISONActive loves a good Christmas story, and the Guardian has provided a tale will all the best ingredients – Santa, the elves, Lapland... and an explanation of exactly where Tory policies are taking us. Read it and make one New Year’s resolution, to get rid of this government. Oh yes you will.
http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/dec/22/santa-elves-living-standards-surveillance

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Back your local firefighters

Tonight members of the Fire Brigades Union will be taking further strike action across England and Wales in defence of their pensions. Strikes will take place between: 7pm and midnight on Tuesday 24 December; 6.30pm on Tuesday 31 December and 12.30am on Wednesday 1 January and 6.30am and 8.30am on Friday 3 January. FBU members in Scotland will join in a Britain wide voluntary overtime ban next weekend. Show some festive solidarity with FBU pickets at your local fire station this evening!
http://www.fbu.org.uk/archives/9243

Sunday, 22 December 2013

10 reasons to oppose Trade Unions

Never mind Democracy feel the Zero-Based Review

Ahead of the 2015 general election, the Labour Party has published a discussion document on the future of public services. According to the New Statesman, ‘Labour’s Zero-Based Review’ contains the ‘most explicit statement yet that the party will cut departmental spending in 2015-16 and will not borrow to meet day-to-day spending’. A prospectus of an incoming Labour Government continuing the austerity squeeze on public services will be greeted with dismay by trade unionists and Labour supporters. And while the document embraces concepts such as ‘iron discipline’ and ‘value for money’ readers will search in vain for any reference to enhancing ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic accountability’
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/12/balls-reaffirms-labours-commitment-cuts-2015
http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/uploads/editor/files/Zero_Based_Review.pdf

Earthquake by Aimé Césaire

such great stretches of dreamscape

such lines of all too familiar lines

                                         staved in

caved in so the filthy wake resounds with the notion

of the pair of us? What of the pair of us?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Peering into political patronage

The House of Lords Library has published a briefing note which provides details of all appointments to that undemocratic obscenity since May 1997 with tables showing by party affiliation all those appointed under Blair, Brown and Cameron - swelling the current ranks of the unelected Lords to 781 (compared to the 650 strong House of Commons):
http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/LLN-2013-040/peerage-creations-since-1997

Execution by Nicolás Guillén

They are going to execute
a man whose arms are tied.
There are four soldiers
for the shooting.
Four silent
soldiers,
fastened up,
like the fastened-up man they’re going to kill.

Friday, 20 December 2013

NHS pay - hands off our increments

In the latest of a long line of attacks on NHS workers, the Con Dem health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP has pre-empted the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body - which are due early next year - and announced that 1% pay restraint policy will continue for a further 3 years. To add insult to injury, multi millionaire Hunt has placed a condition on the paltry 1% rise that health unions must accept the scrapping of service related increments - which are fundamental to the Agenda for Change pay structure.
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nhs-staff-told-no-pay-2937572

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Local Government On The Precipice

The Department for Communities and Local Government  yesterday announced the English local government funding settlement for 2014/15. By any definition it is a disaster for Councils and in many areas of the country sounds the death knell for democratic local services as we have known them.

Stunning victory in New South Wales as Unions overturn political funding restrictions

Yesterday in New South Wales, Australia, the High Court upheld a union challenge to the Government's electoral donation laws. In February 2012, the O'Farrell led right wing Coalition Government amended the Electoral Funding Act, banning political donations from groups unless the donor is an individual enrolled to vote. Unions NSW launched a challenge to the laws, arguing that donations are a form of political freedom and that a ban is unconstitutional. This stunning victory gives hope to unions in Britain fighting a pincer movement to silence their collective voice – the Con Dem Lobbying Bill and the Labour Party’s Collins Review:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-18/high-court-rules-on-nsw-donation-laws/5163654
http://www.hcourt.gov.au/assets/publications/judgment-summaries/2013/hca58-2013-12-18.pdf

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Local government workers deserve some seasonal spirit – in our pay packets!

Heather Wakefield, UNSON head of local government, has sent a festive message to Prime Minister David Cameron MP - ‘our members face the prospect of a further decline in their earnings next year and the economy will be hit further by their reduced spending power. They will be gathering across England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 18 December to ‘Strike A Chord’ for local government pay and sing our very own version of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’. Let me share the first two lines with you: ‘In the bleak midwinter council workers’ pay, Won’t buy Christmas presents – there really is no way…’ So please send Santa with a promise to look after your hard-working local servants better in 2014. And enjoy that Bollie’ Read more at:
http://opinion.publicfinance.co.uk/2013/12/a-christmas-message-to-the-prime-minister/

Monday, 16 December 2013

The human cost of cuts in social care

The Guardian reports on new research which finds that 'half a million fewer old and disabled people are receiving care and support from the public purse than would have been the case before the financial crash' in 2008. Care organisations have identified a £2.8bn shortfall in funding necessary to meet people's needs assessed as moderate:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/16/cuts-care-funding-austerity

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Remember Gaza, Break the Siege - Vigil 18 January 2014

At 12 noon on Saturday 18 January 2014 a protest vigil is being organised outside the Israeli Embassy in London to mark five years on from the end of Israel’s 2008/9 massacre in Gaza. The event has been organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a coalition of organisations including trade unions, and will call for justice for the victims of Israel’s brutal aggression against a defenceless people and for an end to the continuing siege on Gaza:
http://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/protest-5-years-from-the-end-of-israels-20089-massacre-in-gaza/

Will They Believe by Ghassan Zaqtan

Will the children forgive the generation
trampled by horses of war, exile and preparation for departure?

Will they think of us as we were:
ambushes in ravines
we’d shake our jealousy
and carve trees into the earth’s shirt
to sit under
we the factional fighters
who’d shoo the clouds of war out of their carriages
and peer around our eternal siege
or catch the dead
like sudden fruit fallen on a wasteland?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Austerity is rolling back equality gains

The Institute of Employment Rights has published an excellent report of a recent conference held on the theme of 'Equality and discrimination: what next for equal rights'. Legal and trade union experts dissected the Coalition Government's track record on equalities and concluded that there is a systematic (and ongoing) weakening of anti discrimination laws and statutory enforcement of equal rights:
http://www.ier.org.uk/blog/equality-experts-coalition-cuts-could-be-death-equality

A Stiff's Progress by Ernest Antony

The world is round, and mostly mud and rocks and stones and sand,
And it's hard as hell if you're on tramp and broke, you understand;
I've landed broke in twenty towns, and reckoned the game was fair,
When I didn't tramp from any place if I didn't tramp to there.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Real wages cut for fifth year in a row

UNISON Scotland's Public Works blog reports that full-time earnings have now fallen by 6.2% in Scotland since 2010 leaving workers £1753 worse off, with the gender pay gap widening. http://publicworksscotland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/real-wages-cut-for-fifth-year-in-row.html

Councils face an impending cuts catastrophe

There is a consensus across the political spectrum that local government services are facing a meltdown over the next three years as planned funding cuts kick in. The LSE blog reports that by 2015 'the spending power of English councils will have reduced by 30% in real terms, from the peak in 2008, while those in Scotland will be down 24%. Furthermore, the most deprived councils will be the hardest hit. By 2014 the most deprived English councils will have lost £100 more in grant income per head than the least deprived. In Scotland the difference will be £90… Given the scale of the cuts and the increasing focus on front-line services, this implies fundamental change is coming. Councils are likely to pull out of some service areas altogether’
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/38044

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Markets a destructive force in higher education

'The marketisation of higher education is still in its infancy but already its effects are pervasive in so many ways. Many staff report grave concern about the future of higher education. A commonly held belief is that our world-leading system is steadily being turned into a “sausage factory” of graduates’ writes Sally Hunt General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU). The current national pay dispute involving UCU, UNISON and Unite has highlighted growing pay inequalities in the sector with an exponential grow in executive pay in contrast with declining real earnings for academics and support staff:
http://classonline.org.uk/blog/item/the-marketisation-of-education-is-destroying-our-universities

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Workplace justice denied as ET claims plummet

As critics of the introduction of an excessive fee regime for Employment Tribunals had predicted, there has been a sharp decline in the number of claims submitted. LRD reports that on official statistics showing the number of employment tribunal claims issued between the launch of tribunal fees on 29 July 2013 and September 2013. Claims peaked in July at 7,307, plummeting to around 1,000 in September. The judgment in UNISON’s High Court judicial review challenge to the fees is imminent:
http://www.lrdpublications.org.uk/publications.php?pub=LR&iss=1694&id=idp14325840

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Is This What Europeans Want?

The New York Times asks whether the Europeans want the US deregulation economy, with tiny unions and no legal minimums of any note. It is a good question. If we can re phrase it - is it what the governments and corporate bosses want and what can the unions do about it? Certainly it is what our economic masters want.

NEF report identifies 6 steps for public sector pay justice - now it's over to us

Research by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank, commissioned by UNISON, is the latest in a long line of reports to identify that ‘workers on low and middle incomes are experiencing the biggest decline in their living standards since reliable records began in the mid-19th century.’      
   The NEF sets out 6 excellent recommendations (below) for government and other policy makers to adopt. However it should be added to the mix that union agency in collective bargaining, including the effective and smart use of strike tactics, will be critical to realising pay justice for workers who provide public services in the UK:

Monday, 9 December 2013

Report of Latin America 2013 ¡Adelante!

This weekend's 9th Annual Latin America ¡Adelante! conference paid moving tributes to three giants of the progressive revolutionary movement at the weekend. The deaths of Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez and the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Salvador Allende brought sadness but also hope to over 500 delegates packed into Congress House in London.

Stepping up the campaign for pay justice in UK Universities

Following last week's successful second day of national strike action by higher education unions, UNISON has pledged to step up the campaign for an improve pay offer from UCEA, the universities and colleges employers association. Meeting on Friday the union's service group executive pledged to build the pay campaign and engage with members to highlight inequality and low pay throughout January leading to further strike action with UCU and Unite in February:
http://www.unison.org.uk/news/articles/higher-education-executive-considers-the-way-forward

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Rolling back the State

In last week's Autumn Statement a further round of spending cuts was announced - an additional £1bn per year up to 2017. Whitehall Watch, the University of Manchester policy blog, argues that the relentless reductions in public expenditure by Tory Chancellor George Osborne 'isn’t a reaction to the fiscal crisis – it’s a long-term strategy to permanently shrink the state'
http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2013/12/never-letting-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste-george-osbornes-plans-to-permanently-roll-back-the-state/

Random notes to my son by Keorapetese Kgositsile

Beware, my son, words
that carry the loudnesses
of blind desire also carry
the slime of illusion
dripping like pus from the slave's battered back
e.g. they speak of black power whose eyes
will not threaten the quick whitening of their own intent
what days will you inherit?
what shadows inhabit your silences?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Remembering Inez

We live in a world of celebrity worship. A world where some people are famous for being famous and the good work and unselfish effort of so many citizens is ignored. But now and again we are able to celebrate the life of someone who made a contribution, one of ours who cared and walked that extra mile. Inez McCormack was such a woman. Trade unionist , human rights activist, first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and former UNISON Regional Secretary in Northern Ireland. Inez died earlier this year and some of us who knew her were privileged to be in Belfast on a cold Saturday afternoon where the current President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins was joined by former President Mary Robinson to tell the story of a life well lived. The Londonderry Sentinel reports that the story of our comrade Inez McCormack continues to told around the world. It was said of her that she was loathed in high places and loved in low places - most trade unionists would happily settle for that.
http://www.londonderrysentinel.co.uk/news/local-news/a-universal-story-of-women-is-surely-found-in-the-life-of-inez-mccormack-1-5731429
Frank Hont
Former Regional Secretary UNISON North West

A Farewell To Madiba! by Thabo Mbeki

National Assembly, Cape Town, March 26,1999.

Madame Speaker Chairperson of the Council of Provinces Honourable Members Mr President

Isinamva liyabukwa Mhla wasabel'igwijo, Uthwel'uthuli lwezitho zabaphambili, Wadad'emafini nje ngokhozi, Wadelel'inkunzana nje ngemamb'emnyama, Lath'izulu liqulath'indudumo nombane, Ladedel'ilanga nalo lithand'ukubuka libukele, Azoth' amazwe onke ngokuthethelwa ngamehlo, Evulel'ithutyana lwemilozi kubantwana bezulu, Ndlebe zibanzi ziphulaphul'izingqi zekhehle, De wavulek'uqhoqhoqho siyinginginya sisonke, Ngoba namhlanje sifun'ukukhahlela sithi, Sina ndini! Madiba! Dalibunga! Msimbithi we sizwe! Nkom'eduna yomthonyama! Sithwalandwe!

You have walked along the road of the hereos and the heroines.

You have borne the pain of those who have known fear and learnt to conquer it.

You have marched in front when comfort was in the midst of the ranks

You have laughed to contend against a river of tears.

You have cried to broadcast a story of joy.

And now you leave this hallowed place to continue to march in front of a different detachment of the same army of the sun.

Not the comfort of the fond superintendence of the growing stalks of the maize plant or of the Ngunki herd with its milk, its flesh or its hide.

Nor the pleasant chatter of your grand-children with mountains to climb which are but little mounds.

Not the pensive silence of the elderly, whose burdened minds cascade backwards because to look too much into the future is to impose a burden on bones that have grown old.

You leave us here not because you have to stop.

You leave us here because you have to start again.

The accident of your birth should have condemned you to a village.

Circumstances you did not choose should have confined you to a district.

Your sight, your heart and your mind could have reached no further than the horizon of the natural eye.

But you have been where you should not have been.

You have faced death and said - do your worst!

You have inhabited the dark, dark dungeons of freedom denied, itself a denial to live in a society where freedom was denied.

You have looked at the faces of some of those who were your comrades, who turned their eyes away from you because somewhere in their mortal being there lingered the remnants of a sense of shame, always and for ever whispering softly - no to treachery! a thing in the shadows, present at every dawn, repeating, repeating, repeating - I am Conscience, to whom you have denied a home.

You have not asked - who indeed are these for whose lives I was prepared to die!

You have asked who am I, that I too did not falter, so that I too could turn my own eyes away from myself and another, who was a comrade.

You have stood at the brink, when you had to appeal to the gods about whether to win a dishonourable peace or to lose the lives of your people, and decided that none among these would exchange their lives for an existence without honour.

You have been where nobody should be asked to be.

You have carried burdens heavier than those who felt it their responsibility and right to proclaim you an enemy of the state.

You have to convince your enemies to believe a story difficult to believe, because it was true, that your burnished spear glittered in the rays of the sun, not to speak of hatred and death from them, but because you prayed that its blinding brilliance would tell them, whose ears would not hear, that you loved them as your own kith and kin.

You have had to bear the mantle of sainthood when all you sought was pride in the knowledge that you were a good foot soldier for justice and freedom.

But despite it all and because of it all, we are blessed.

We are blessed because you have walked along the road of our heroes and heroines.

For centuries our own African sky has been dark with suffering and foreboding.

But because we have never surrendered, for centuries the menace in our African sky has been brightened by the light of our stars.

In the darkness of our night, the victory of the Khoikhoi in 1510 here in Table Bay, when they defeated and killed the belligerent Portuguese admiral and aristocrat, Dom Franscisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese viceroy in India, has lit our skies for ever.

In the darkness of our night, Autshumato, the Khoikhoi leader who was the first political prisoner on Robben Island, shone on our firmament as our star of hope.

And so these and other since, the kings and queens and generals and warriors who resisted Africa's colonisation, the leaders who, and the movements which fought for African emancipation - these who are, permanently, our heroes and heroines - have come and gone, over the generations, one after the other, each to take his or her place as a star in the African sky.

Among them are our own, whose names we recite to tell ourselves that we are - black liberators, white liberators, human beings, whose only fault has been to strive to live as human beings.

Among these, Madiba, we recite you name, because your fault too, for which your have paid your price, was that yours strived so that you, together with us, could live as a human being.

As these human beings, we have, for five years, traversed the rooms and passages that surround us and occupied this theatre of drama and farce and the birth of the new, carrying on our foreheads the title - the law makers!

The sense of wonder still pervades our ranks that out of the turnult and the babble of tongues, the veiled enmities and the bloodless wars, there could have arisen over our devastated land, out of this house, with its own history, the sun of hope.

Though standing like little giants, because we stand on your shoulders and others of your generation, we must proclaim it to the world that here, in these houses of the law-givers, we have striven to do the right things, because to have done otherwise would have been to condemn ourselves to carry, for all time, the burden of having insulted all the sacrifices you made.

Others, before us, who also had the power to decide how each and all shall behave, according to such rules and regulations they were empowered to set, arrived from Europe at the Cape of Good Hope on the 23rd of December, 1802.

These were the representatives of the Batavian Republic of the Netherlands.

As they landed on the shores of our oceans, only a heckler's shout from where you sit, Madiba, they carried in their heads the lesson they had been taught, on "Methods to Follow when Attending Savage Peoples". And here is an example of their lessons:

Convey to them our arts, but not our corruption, the code of our morals, and not the example of our vices, our sciences and not our dogmas, the advantages of civilisation, and not their abuses, conceal from them how the people in our more enlightened countries, defame one another, and degrade themselves by their passions.

On the 10th of May, five years ago, you stood in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria to proclaim to the universe that the sun could never set on so glorious a human achievement as was celebrated that day.

Black and white South Africans had, at last, arrived at the point when, together, they could say:

Let us nurture our arts, and not our corruption. Let us communicate morality, and not our vices. Let us advance science, and not our dogmas. Let us advance civilisation, and not abuse.

After a long walk, we too have arrived at the starting point of a new journey.

We have you, Madiba, as our nearest and brightest star to guide us on our way.

We will not get lost

Friday, 6 December 2013

Mandela lives in our constitution - Denis Goldberg

Denis Goldberg fought alongside Nelson Mandela against South Africa's apartheid government. In an exclusive interview with DW, he talks about their joint struggle for freedom. http://www.dw.de/denis-goldberg-mandela-was-a-great-leader/a-17274751
"Were we prepared to give up? No. The manifesto of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) with Nelson Mandela as the first commander in chief said in effect: In the life of a people there come moments where there are two choices, to live on our knees or to stand and fight. Our decision was to fight. I once said to him: "What are we fighting for?" He said: "One person, one vote!".
  Earlier he told the BBC News World Service: "I'm saddened his life has come to an end. But it hasn't come to an end - he lives in our constitution, our society, he lives in the comradeship that he always talked about."

Enough of Austerity - time for a Labour pledge to change course

Leading UNISON NEC member Jane Carolan takes stock of yesterday’s Autumn Statement on UK Government spending plans: Tuesday’s Guardian featured a tale of two constituencies - Tatton, whose local MP is none other than Gideon George Oliver Osborne himself, and Morley and Ottwood, the constituency of his opposite number Ed Balls.

Nelson Mandela: “One of the great men of our time” – UNISON Scotland tribute

UNISON Scotland today paid tribute to Nelson Mandela who has died aged 95. Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby said: “Nelson Mandela rightly received many honours and awards in the course of a long life which exemplified courage and struggle against the odds.
  “One was from UNISON’s predecessor NALGO, who in 1984 gave him Honorary Life Membership of the union.
   “While we were giving Nelson Mandela life membership, the Tory Government of the time were opposing sanctions against South Africa and refusing to talk to the ANC.

Con Dems continue war against workers across the generations

Yesterday's Autumn Statement from Tory Chancellor George Osborne once again bowed to demands from big business for state subsidies with concessions including a cap on business rates, reduced employers National Insurance contributions and tax relief for city speculators.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Liverpool University support staff strike against cuts to T’s & C’s

Hard on the heels of yesterday’s higher education national pay strike, support staff members of UNISON and Unite at Liverpool University are today taking a second day of strike action in opposition to imposed cuts in rates of pay for working weekends, nights, open days etc. Services affected include services such as catering, cleaning and building management:
http://www.unisonnw.org/supportlivustaff

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Scotland’s Future - Can We Have a Rational Debate?

“Society cannot share a common communication system so long as it is split into warring factions.” Bertholt Brecht
Even the most southerly reader of UNISONActive can hardly have escaped the recent pronouncements from the Scottish Government with regard to independence.

Labour Party Collins Review – UNISON political fund model in pole position

An interesting report in today’s Guardian that the Collins review is likely to recommend a political fund model similar to UNISON’s whereby union members choose between an affiliated and non affiliated political fund contribution from their union membership subscription. The UNISON system has operated robustly for 20 years with remarkably only 13,560 members opting to exempt themselves from contributing to the political fund in contrast with Unite where 169,292 opt out of paying the political levy to Labour.
Of course, constitutional formulas aside, a far bigger question for the future is how levy paying members of affiliated unions exercise our political influence in the Labour Party.

All together now - back today's pay strike in UK Universities

#fairpayinHE Members of UCU, UNISON and Unite across higher education are today staging a second day of national strike action in support of an improved pay offer from the University employers. The 1% offer continues a five year trend of below inflation pay rises which has resulted in a loss of pay between £663 and £3,574 from base earnings. Lunchtime rallies about held across the UK - details here:
http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/2013/11/29/what-ucu-members-should-do-on-strike-day/#events

NHS 2014 Pay - a test of Review Body's integrity

Almost 10 years on from the introduction of the NHS wide Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system, LRD Workplace Report has published a useful overview of pay in the NHS. It analyses the impact of pay restraint, the Health and Social Care Act, pressures for regional pay and related concessions on the national agreement, pay progression and the systematic downbanding taking place as NHS employers seek to roll back gains made under the AfC agreement. Looking ahead to the 2014 pay award the article concludes that ‘AfC is still highly prized by the unions, but members will also be expecting it, and the system of NHSPRB recommendations on which it rests, to deliver on pay too’
http://www.lrdpublications.org.uk/publications.php?pub=WR&iss=1695&id=idp21296

Monday, 2 December 2013

Qatar - built on worker exploitation

It is more tragic than ironic that the state owned Qatari Airways displaced UNICEF on the front of FC Barcelona’s shirt. That the global footballing institution - which styles itself as ‘more than a club’ - compromised its ethics big time is brought into sharp relief by the report of an ITUC delegation into the slave labour conditions of migrant workers building the 2022 World Cup infrastructure for the oil rich authoritarian statelet. Qatar is expected to ship in at least an additional 500,000 construction labourers —mainly from Nepal, Bangladesh and India — in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. According to the ILO, ‘more than 4,000 migrant workers could die between now and 2022 during construction of the infrastructure for the world’s biggest sporting event’

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Britain below the breadline - life on the minimum wage

As pressure mounts for a significant hike in the minimum wage rate, the Guardian reports on a visit by the Low Pay Commission to the West Midlands to hear evidence from low paid workers about life on poverty pay - including powerful testimony from a union steward - 'Having enough to eat and pay the bills is a struggle. The essentials are getting more and more expensive. I haven't had a holiday in years. I've been saving supermarket vouchers to pay for the Christmas turkey and my husband [who is retired] has given me part of his heating allowance for presents'
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/29/low-pay-commission-tours-uk-minimum-wage

The month of Katayien is here by Najm Hosain Syed

The month of Katayien is here.
They say cranes arrive in this weather.
Slow wind blows imperceptibly
Certain coolness dissolves in the air

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Benefits System: EXPOSED

A TUC animation tackles some of the media and political myths about the benefits system, with the aid of a talking dog.


http://www.tuc.org.uk/the-benefits-system-exposed

STUC cancels march after Glasgow tragedy

The STUC has cancelled the St Andrew's Day anti-racism march in Glasgow today due to the tragic helicopter crash. The march would have passed close to the scene. A statement from the STUC says: "As a mark of respect to all those affected by the tragedy at the Clutha Vaults last night and in view of the pressure which has been placed on the resources of Scottish emergency services, STUC has decided to cancel its annual St Andrew's Day anti-racism march. The march which had been due to leave from Glasgow Green at 11am will now NOT take place, but participants are invited to attend a short rally at the Glasgow Film Theatre at 12 noon as planned".
   Our thoughts are with those affected and the public service staff working tirelessly to deal with the incident. http://www.stuc.org.uk/campaigns-and-external-events/st-andrews-day

Zero Hour by Ernesto Cardenal

Tropical nights in Central America,
with moonlit lagoons and volcanoes
and lights from presidential palaces,
barracks and sad curfew warnings.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Private provision in the NHS - the more we see the less we want

Public support for private firms providing services falling markedly, according to a poll conducted by Ipsos Mori. 1009 people were asked if they agreed with the statement 'as long as health services are free of charge, it doesn’t matter to me whether they are provided by the NHS or a private company'. There was net agreement of -5 per cent with the statement, with 42 per cent agreeing and 47 per cent disagreeing. When the same question was asked in 2011 there was net approval of 5 per cent:
http://www.hsj.co.uk/news/attitudes-harden-against-private-providers/5065645.article

Urgent - Sign the Shrewsbury 24 petition now

You only have till 14 December to sign the Shrewsbury 24 paper petition calling for the release of government documents that pertain to the Shrewsbury trial in 1972. A request to release these documents has been denied on grounds of “national security” and this decision is not due to be reviewed until 2021.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Poorest areas hardest hit by Con Dem cuts

The Independent reports that Government spending cuts have hit the poorest parts of England and Scotland much harder than more affluent areas. Research published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) confirms that the North and Midlands are suffering more than the south, with deprived areas left about £100 per person worse off. The JRF analysed the 30% real terms cut in local government spending between 2008 and 2015:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/spending-cuts-hit-poorest-parts-of-england-and-scotland-much-harder-than-affluent-areas-8968273.html

'Austerity increases income inequality' (c) IMF

The fanatically pro market Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises famously stated that 'inequality of wealth is the cause of the masses' well being, not the cause of anybody's distress.' Once the province of right wing cranks, such thinking has become today's neo liberal orthodoxy. The December 2013 issue of the IMF's quarterly magazine "Finance & Development" has an article summarizing recent reports produced by the Fund's research department showing that austerity ("fiscal consolidation") and capital account liberalization policies increase income inequality:
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2013/12/furceri.htm

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Agency job cuts put environment in danger

The Environment Agency in England, where UNISON organises 3,500 workers, is slashing its staff by 15% in the next year. Over 1,700 jobs will be lost as a result of Government funding cuts. Veerle Heyvaert writing for The Conversation blog warns that the ‘environmental and related economic costs of this scale of layoffs at the Environment Agency should be taken seriously. By themselves they are unlikely to sway a government that, regardless of its claimed green ambition, pursues an agenda of environmental deregulation. Yet there are other significant legal and political costs that may have escaped the government’s attention so far but are significant’
http://theconversation.com/environment-agency-staff-cuts-risks-economy-and-reputation-20584

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Indy White Paper flags up need for cross border discussion

We have got the best part of a year to analyse the White Paper on Scottish Independence so any attempt to do the debate justice at this stage would be a bit previous. However, a Holyrood Magazine has thrown up some key cross border issues that will have to be adressed whatever the result.

The myth of the contented slave

Slave Masters justified slavery by claiming that slaves 'were perfectly contented with their condition, and on the whole a much better race without education than with, as they were now faithful, kind-hearted, and attached to their masters, whereas education would destroy all their natural virtues, and make them as vicious as the lower orders in other countries.'

Monday, 25 November 2013

End Violence against Women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. According to a 2013 WHO global study, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence but some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights.
http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/end-violence-against-women

Labour's Collateral Damage?

Anyone with any doubts about the madness of Ed Miliband's proposal to end the collective affiliation to the Labour Party of almost 3 million trade unionists will surely have had them dispelled by yesterday's Sunday Telegraph report that the Labour Party has secured £2.4 million in loans from the Co-operative Bank 'using future income from union affiliation fees as collateral'
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/10471476/Labour-Party-cashed-in-on-cheap-loans-from-Co-op.html

Upbeat mood at UNISON LGBT conference

#ulgbt13 Over 400 delegates and visitors gathered in Liverpool over the weekend for the annual conference of UNISON's LGBT self organised group. In a moment of collective pride, exactly 30 years after Nalgo's first lesbian and gay conference, UNISON's first out President Maureen Le Marinel addressed conference on Saturday morning. Local Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Justice Stephen Twigg praised the trade union movement's massive contribution to the recent advances in LGBT rights but noted that there remains much to do both at home and internationally:
http://www.unison.org.uk/news/lgbt-conference-twigg

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Free School chickens coming home to roost

One of the first schools to open as a free school (state funded but run as independent schools) is facing closure if it does not come up with an improvement plan in the next two weeks. Opponents of the Con Dems' free schools programme in England have long warned that the deregulation of education will harm standards. Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt accused Ministers of ‘refusing to take action to address the fundamental flaws in their schools policy that allows unqualified teachers in classrooms on a permanent basis; a lack of transparency; and a complete failure of oversight’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25059495

Talking to myself by Kishwar Naheed

Punish me for I’ve written the significance of the dream
in my own blood written a book ridden with an obsession
Punish me for I have spent my life sanctifying the dream of the future
spent it enduring the tribulations of the night
Punish me for I have imparted knowledge and the skills of the sword to the murderer and demonstrated the power of the pen to the mind

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Community Budgets backed as new model for public services

The House of Commons Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee has completed its second inquiry into Community Budgets - an approach whereby services are integrated across public service organisations and municipal boundaries. The CLG Committee report assesses the outcomes of the four Whole Place Community Budget pilots launched in 2010 and concludes that 'community budgeting provides an effective model for the future development of public services and should be rolled out nationally as soon as possible'. This policy has cross party support and, if implemented, could lead to large scale reconfiguration of public services at local level with massive implications for UNISON members and union structures:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmcomloc/163/163.pdf

Ideas reduced to ambience by Sam Silva

With expressive violins
dressed and mocked by woodwind
on computer radio
the mind which cannot sleep
may yet find peace
in cigarettes stubbed out in the grease
in this warm cocoon of Winter and forgetfulness
inside from the late night drift
of berries thorns and snow

Friday, 22 November 2013

UK Unions – arresting the decline

Union density in the private sector has dropped to 14% and more than half the UK workforce has never been a member of a trade union (a proportion which has doubled since 1985). A short FT video examines the profound challenges facing the trade union movement in recruiting new members and remaining relevant. Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, says ‘we have to do more to invest in organising, to having mature and sensible conversations with more employers about the benefits which unionisation can bring’
http://video.ft.com/2857036809001/Unions-face-up-to-new-challenges/latest