MPs demand full public inquiry into blacklisting

Scottish Affairs Select Committee blacklistUnions have welcomed a call by MPs for a full public inquiry into blacklisting.

A report published today by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee accuses construction companies of misleading MPs over a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers.

It said the firms were more interested in minimising damage to their reputation and finances rather than a genuine attempt to tackle the scandal.

It describes the scheme as “misleading, callous and manipulative”, criticises it for being launched without the agreement of trade unions as well as the low levels of compensation offered and that those participating in High Court action are barred from accessing the scheme.

The committee also states it has no confidence in the sector to “self-cleanse” or to take robust steps to eradicate the practice of blacklisting. It believes that a voluntary code will not prevent blacklisting and that statutory regulations must be introduced. It also says that companies that refuse to self-cleanse should be barred from “all contracts funded, in whole or part, by public money.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This report is a damning indictment of the underhand and cruel tactics that the construction industry employed against decent workers prepared to stand up and be counted on such issues as health and safety.

“The recommendations cover all the key points that Unite has raised with the committee. We welcome, in particular, the employment of ‘blacklisted’ workers. This is the only ‘proof positive’ that these major contractors are on the road to cleaning up their past dodgy employment practices.

“However, it is clear from the report that many companies are dragging their feet on the issue of compensation to remedy what the committee calls ‘the sins of the past’.

“Whoever is in government after May’s general election must respond to the repeated call for a full public inquiry into the long-running issue of ‘blacklisting’.

“The Scottish Affairs Committee, as a whole, and its chair Ian Davidson have shone a light on this murky world of blacklisting. We are indebted to them for their work and dedication in seeking out truth and justice.”

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “This excellent report is to be welcomed for two key reasons: first, the fact that its very strong recommendations are made on a cross political party basis; second, the clear way it reflects how sick to death the MP’s of all parties and everyone else is of the construction companies and their arrogant, bully boy attitude.

“The construction companies actions towards those they blacklisted since they got caught shows that they believe they did nothing wrong, membership of the Consulting Association shows how they believed that they were above the law and their attitude towards MPs shows that they believe they are above Parliament.

“Strip away the weasel words and crocodile tears from the blacklisting companies and their highly paid entourage of spin doctors and lawyers and the simple truth is that MP’s of all political parties involved in the Inquiry into Blacklisting in Employment do not trust the companies to eradicate blacklisting and do not believe they have, or will self-cleanse.

The only way the questions posed by the Scottish Affairs Committee will get answered is from a full Public Inquiry.”

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy: “The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has condemned the counterfeit compensation scheme in the strongest possible terms. The scheme has no credibility and workers who have had their lives ruined have seen that TCWCS is simply a cheap way to gag them and deny them justice.

“Given recent revelations about how the police and security forces were involved in infiltrating trade unions and supplying information to the Consulting Association to blacklist workers, the Committee has called on the government to hold a full public inquiry into blacklisting.

“Every week there are more grubby revelations about the involvement of the state in blacklisting. The only way we are going to get the truth is through a full public inquiry. This puts fresh pressure on the government to launch a public inquiry so workers and their families whose lives were ruined can learn the full truth once and for all.

“Blacklisting will only be eradicated  through strict laws, with blacklisters facing criminal charges, a voluntary code would be worse than useless. Until blacklisters own up, pay up and clean up they should be barred from bidding for public sector contracts.

“The work of the Scottish Affairs Committee and its chair, Ian Davidson MP, in exposing blacklisting has been absolutely invaluable. Without the committee’s hard work, diligence and perseverance, the recent strides in unmasking the blacklisters and the slow battle to make them pay for their actions would have been impossible.”

East Ham and Ilford North Election fund raiser

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Husband and wife activists sacked within three days of each other after leak accusations

University of BoltonTwo members of staff have been sacked by the University of Bolton for allegedly leaking information to the press about the vice-chancellor, George Holmes. In addition, a pro-vice-chancellor has left the university at short notice in unknown circumstances.

The sackings come after stories appeared in the national press about a £960,000 loan from the university to the vice-chancellor and details of expensive staff away days to a resort in the Lake District where the vice-chancellor moors his yacht.

Damian Markey, a senior lecturer in visual effects for film and television, was sacked on Friday afternoon. His wife Jennifer, an academic administrator in the health and community studies department, was dismissed on Monday. Both deny any involvement in leaking stories.

Mr Markey was pulled out of an internal review at 2pm on Friday afternoon and told to report to a disciplinary hearing at 2:30pm. At the hearing he was accused of making malicious statements about colleagues, leaking information to the press aimed at damaging the university, and bringing the university into disrepute.

He denied all the charges but was summarily dismissed 45 minutes later. The evidence against him was that the CEO of the University Technical College run by Bolton University said he overheard a mobile conversation when Markey used the words ‘boats’ and ‘lakes’. He was told this proved he was involved in the leaking of the story in The Times about staff away days in the Lake District, despite details having been sent to all staff.

Mr Markey was also told that because he, along with others, had raised concerns by students in the internal review, it meant he was focused on bringing the university down. The concerns were agreed in advance by all those involved in the review, including a visiting academic from Coventry University.

They asked why students had complained of not having sufficient tools after the university had invested £791,000 in the Centre for Performance Engineering (CAPE). One of the complaints against Mr Markey at the hearing came from the head of CAPE, Nick Reynolds.

In February it was revealed that the university had lent vice-chancellor Holmes £960,000 to buy a home near to Bolton.

The university chief was living in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, some 50 miles from the university, and the loan was to enable him to buy a house in four acres of land near Bolton, while awaiting the sale of his family home in Wakefield.

The Daily Mail reported that his Wakefield house did not have a For Sale sign outside and that it belonged to a woman understood to be his new partner. Holmes refused to comment on the loan deal, as did his wife, who lives nearby.

Mr Markey is a member of theUCU and was the secretary of the local branch. UCU says it believes that the decision to dismiss him was because of his trade union activities. His wife is a member of the local UNISON branch.

Both unions have said they will appeal the decisions, with members meeting yesterday to decide their next steps. UCU said many staff are angry, confused and frightened after the extraordinary dismissal of two of their colleagues and the shock resignation of the pro-vice-chancellor.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “These sackings are completely unjustified and quite staggering. There was no investigation and the whole sorry episode has ridden roughshod over the university’s own procedures.

“In our view what Bolton has done is unlawful and represents trade union victimisation and they can expect to face the full force of the national union. We will be appealing these decisions as well as instructing our lawyers. At the moment we are trying to calm down other staff members who are understandably angry and concerned by the university’s behaviour.

“Nobody likes looking a bit silly in public, but to start axing staff without evidence is the response of a desperate despot, not a university vice-chancellor.”

TUC launches LGBT charter

lgbt rainbow flag bannerThe TUC today launches a new Charter for International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Solidarity.

The central message of the Charter is that solidarity is at the core of trade union values, but that decisions regarding when, whether and how to act must be firmly in the hands of the LGBT communities in each country.

The Charter explains how unions can best support the struggles of LGBT people in the many countries where homosexuality is illegal, and subject to popular prejudice. It is still a crime to be lesbian, gay or bisexual in more than 70 countries, with punishments including life imprisonment, flogging and the death penalty.

Crucially, the Charter emphasises that:

·    leadership must come from the LGBT communities.

·    LGBT communities in different countries will have varied approaches based on cultural and national sensitivities.

·    trade unions should be prepared to offer practical support in whatever form is needed.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The message of this charter is that trade unions support campaigns against laws that oppress LGBT people across the world. ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ is a basic trade union message and it applies everywhere.

“Unions will also support LGBT communities who wish to avoid a kneejerk response to violations ­– one example being the Winter Olympics in Russia where a boycott was seen to be doing more harm than good and Russian LGBT organisations called for engagement as a more effective approach.”

The Charter can be downloaded here.

Saving Our Safety Net Fact of the Week: Unions reduce inequality

I take every opportunity I can to promote The Union Advantage – it’s a TUC pamphlet that sets out the reasons why workers are better off in unions. It sets out all the hard-nosed “what’s in it for me?” stuff like higher pay rises, safer workplaces and fairer treatment. But I’m proud that it...

Support for Dunnes Stores workers builds as strike approaches

Dunnes Stores workers who are in Mandate Trade Union are going on strike on April 2nd. Workers are demanding that the wealthy and profitable store provides secure contracts and incomes, secure jobs, fair pay and the right to union representation.

Mandate trade union and their supporters have been campaigning in towns and cities all over Ireland building support for next weeks strike.

Watch the video here from Dublin’s busiest shopping thoroughfares, Henry Street and North Earl Street. Mandate and their supporters are busy building support and solidarity for the strike next week.

 

Do you support decent conditions for Dunnes workers? Of course you do!

Take action and sign their petition HERE.

Follow all campaign updates on their page here.

Hidden cash

That the Tory donor list is dominated by hedge funds may come as no surprise, but did you know that many of the businesses bankrolling the Conservative party sell items you might yourself have at home?

 
As the Mirror reported yesterday (March 25), some of the most everyday products fuel an ideology that’s determined to undo protections for working people, rip apart our public services and browbeat the most vulnerable with austerity, punishing the victims of a financial crisis which was itself orchestrated by the mega-rich.

 
The Mirror’s list includes:

 
Melton Mownbray Pork Pies and Ginster Pies

 
The makers of the popular pies are the Leicester-based Samworth Brothers, who have poured in oodles of money into Tory coffers over the years. Director Mark Samworth has donated £585,000 to the Conservative party since 2010, while the company itself donated just over £30,000 in 2002 and 2003. President David Samworth donated £26,000, which brings Samworth’s total Tory party donations to more than half a million pounds.

 
Next clothing and accessories

 
The clothing retailer funnels hundreds of thousands into the Tory party, with its CEO Lord Wolfson having donated more than £400,000 to the party since 2006. The resulting nepotism is not surprising—Wolfson was made a peer by prime minister David Cameron in 2010.

 
Although Next may be a purveyor of fashionable clothing, the most unnerving thing about the retailer is its staunch refusal to pay its workers decent wages, despite having reported record profits valued at almost £700m.

 
Lord Wolfson criticised Living Wage campaigns last week, saying the £6.70 an hour many of his workers were on, which is just barely above the minimum wage, was “enough to live on.” This coming from a man who is worth more than £100m and earns a basic salary of £350 an hour – over 50 times more than your average Next employee.

 
Lycamobile

 
Lycamobile is a massive mobile phone virtual network operating in various countries, including Australia, the United States, and various EU countries including the UK.

 
It is one of the Tories’ biggest corporate donors, having extended more than £800,000 to the Conservative party in total, despite coming under intense criticism for not paying any corporate tax in the UK on its massive profits since 2007.

 
The Guardian also reported earlier this week that Lycamobile executives were present at a Tory fundraising ball, where they were seen bidding £200,000 on a statue of Margaret Thatcher and also placed winning bids on two other prizes – lunch with Michael Gove and tea with London mayor Borish Johnson.

 
This was the same ball where a Tory foreign office minister was secretly recorded making jokes about benefits claimants.

 
Crombie coats

 
Crombie, purveyors of luxury coats, is owned by former Tory vice-chairman Alan Lewis, who has donated almost £250,000 to the Tory party.

 
The Mirror reported in 2013 that Crombie’s parent company, Hartley Investment Trust, is part-owned by two companies operating in the Isle of Man. These companies are in turn owned by companies doing business out of the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas—two notorious tax havens.

 
That the Tory party welcomes donations from tax avoiders shows just how much the party is committed to doing anything at all about the mega-rich refusing to contribute their fair share.

 
Autotrader

 
Autotrader UK, an automobile classifieds publisher that once published a printed magazine, has since 2014 been owned by Apax, a private equity firm run by Tory donor Adrian Beecroft. The Guardian sold its stake in the publisher for hundreds of millions under a controversial offshore deal in the Cayman Islands.

 
Beecroft, who has donated almost £600,000 to the Tories, also infamously authored a report in 2012 that sought to tear up employment protections that have been in place for decades, including slashing redundancy notice periods, capping tribunal pay outs and allowing employers to opt out of flexible parental leave.

 
Unite political director Jennie Formby said the list of household consumer goods funding the Tory party comes as no surprise.

 
“This list is yet further evidence proving the extent to which the Tory party is the party of people in high places,” she said.

 

“The big business cash injected into the Tory party is no casual coincidence – many of these businesses and the millionaires who run them are afraid to be taken to task by a government truly serving the people, and so push to purchase into power the party that will protect their interests.

 
“Many of these Tory donors refuse to pay their workers the Living Wage despite massive profits, and they avoid paying tax at all costs,” she added. “They dream of a deregulated world in which global capital controls everything – even in the sphere of public services.

 
“Who else to make this dream come true than the Tory party, the party that opened up the NHS to rampant privatisation and supports massive trade deals such as TTIP, which will inevitably create a race to the bottom for workers’ rights?”

 
See the Mirror’s full list of products funding the Tory party here.

The post Hidden cash appeared first on UNITElive.org.

Egyptian teachers protest short term contracts

A picture from an earlier teachers' protest. A 34 year old sociology graduate and teacher named Ammar holds up his contract. It states his pay is 110 Egyptian pounds ($18.60 US) a month with an annual Labour Day bonus of ten pounds ($1.69). Photo by Austin G Mackell

A picture from an earlier teachers’ protest. A 34 year old sociology graduate and teacher named Ammar holds up his contract. It states his pay is 110 Egyptian pounds ($18.60 US) a month with an annual Labour Day bonus of ten pounds ($1.69). Photo by Austin G Mackell

The practice of hiring teachers on short term contracts has been widespread in Egypt and nothing much has changed since the time of the Mubarak dictatorship which was overthrown by the uprisings in 2011, in which teachers played a prominent role.

As we reported in 2012: Under the Mubarak dictatorship, education spending was steadily run down, partly at the behest of the IMF. This situation persists, as does the fact that more and more money is extracted from the poor to fund public schools. This takes the form of fees extracted from parents for books and even building maintenance, but most especially from institutionalised systems of private tuition, which bring in money for the management, as well as supplementing teachers’ salaries.

Teachers on permanent contracts earn between $65 and $115 a month in regular salary. The majority of teachers however are on temporary contracts and they earn up to $16 a month – some earn nothing at all – on the basis that they will obtain the money for survival by taking private tuition lessons at the end of the school day. These lessons, which are more or less compulsory, can have twenty plus students per teacher and those who cannot pay, cannot attend. This situation forces teachers – themselves poor – to become the oppressors of other poor people who typically pay twenty per cent of their incomes for their children’s education. It is a form of insidious privatisation which enables the state to cut education budgets and offload its constitutional responsibility onto teachers and the poor.

The Mubarak government was replaced first by a repressive Muslim Brotherhood regime under Morsi and now by the rule of the army under Sisi, which is carrying out violent and repressive measures against any kind of dissent. Just as teachers stood up to Mubarak and formed an independent teaching union in 2010, despite the ever-present threat of the security forces, so now teachers are once again demanding justice.

When a choice isn’t worth having

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London’s NHS in crisis

A report launched today (Thursday 26 March) reveals that London NHS’s crisis has moved into intensive care.

 

London’s NHS – into the unknown outlines a further unravelling of services as the NHS becomes more fragmented and financially squeezed.

 

Roy Lilley is the chair of the inquiries that formed the basis for the reports. “We would like to report that the picture had improved over the last 12 months – however, the situation has moved from serious to being in intensive care.”

 

The report is a follow-up to London’s NHS at the crossroads which was released in March of last year. Both reports were funded by Unite.

 

“This second report brings a detailed, but disturbing, analysis of how the Health and Social Care Act has caused havoc to NHS services in London,” said Unite regional secretary for London Peter Kavanaugh.

 

Almost all of London’s 19 acute hospital trusts are deep ‘in the red’ and braced for an end of year deficit of almost £270m.

 

Most of the planned ‘savings’ centre on unproven plans to reduce numbers of patients treated as emergencies, as waiting list patients or as outpatients – all of which would drain vital funding from hospital budgets and put services and whole hospitals at risk.

 

To make matters worse, the plans to reduce access to hospital care are not matched by equivalent investment in services outside hospital – community health services, district nurses, or GPs.

 

The funding gap between resources and demand for social care, provided by local boroughs in London, is growing rapidly. Councils warned that the gap by 2017/18 in London alone could be more £900 million.

 

“Some clear strategic thinking is desperately needed before the service implodes under the mounting pressures,” added Kavanaugh.

 

Some recommendations the report makes include an immediate reversal of the worst aspects of the health and social care act, which has wasted £3bn of NHS funding.

 

More investment in ambulance services, which are losing 26 paramedics-a-week and struggling to fill 400 vacancies and the closing down of Healthwatch England with patients interests being represented by new bodies similar to the former community health councils.

 

The post London’s NHS in crisis appeared first on UNITElive.org.

Keeping the fight alive

The growing connection between Unite’s community and industrial members saw the unveiling of the world’s first dual-purpose trade union banner by the Derby Unite Community branch last week (March 19).

 

Historical images of a Derby strike pre-dating the Tolpuddle Martyrs have been combined with a 21st century communication Quick Response (QR) code. When scanned by a mobile phone this leads people to a website which will encourage them to get involved by informing them of the nature of the protest.

 

Anyone scanning last week on the Unite National Day of Action against Benefits Sanctions was taken to Unite Community’s website detailing the day of action.

 

The cost of the banner has largely been paid for by the Rolls-Royce manufacturing branch of Unite. It has been designed by local Unite community member Jim Griffiths and beautifully created by Ed Hall, Britain’s leading manufacturer of marching banners for trade unions and other campaign groups.

 

The banner states We Honour the Derby Silk Workers 1833-34 and will be carried on the annual commemorative march organised each weekend before May Day by the Derby Trades Union Council.

 

Honouring the sacrifices made by early trade unionists, the banner pays tribute to a moment in history when up to 2,000 Derby silk workers left work in November 1833 to June 1834. Following the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824, the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, in which Robert Owen was prominent, was established with an important branch in Derby that included weavers, iron workers, builders and silk thrusters.

 

When silk manufacturer, Mr Frost, discharged one of his employees, his fellow workmates walked out in support. Within a week 800 people, in a town of 24,000, were affected. When many local employers then declared they would not employ trade unionists, another 500 walked out and by February the numbers had leaped to 2,000. Attempts to persuade strike-breakers imported from London led to many strikers being imprisoned.

 

The strike continued for many months but eventually collapsed as starvation set in. Many strikers were subsequently victimised and never worked in their trade again. Nevertheless, in late 1834, the Dorchester Agricultural Labourers at Tolpuddle took up the struggle for trade unions, which only exist today because of the sacrifices made by the likes of the Derby silk workers, Tolpuddle Martyrs and London Dockers of 1889.

 

Helping to unveil the banner, Paul Bickerton, who in addition to being an elected workplace rep is treasurer of the local Rolls-Royce Unite branch, said:

 

“Our members back the local Unite Community branch that is doing great work in defending the welfare state and helping prevent a split between those in and out of work. I’m keen to see the banner on the annual march, which rightly keeps alive the silk worker’s fight, and pleased to know Unite is leading the way in modern up-to-date methods of communicating with the public.”

 

“We would like to thank Rolls Royce Unite members for their financial support and look forward to working closely with them in the future in opposing austerity,” said Derby Unite Community branch chair Cecilia Wright.

 

The post Keeping the fight alive appeared first on UNITElive.org.

London’s NHS in intensive care, says new report

NHS-bannerLondon NHS’s crisis has deepened and moved into ‘intensive care’, according to a report – launched today – which investigates the capital’s health service over the last 12 months has concluded.

London’s NHS into the unknown outlines a further unravelling of services as the NHS becomes more fragmented and financially squeezed, which is coupled with a continued management vacuum at the strategic level – with the public still having no real voice in decisions that affect them.

The report is a follow-up to London’s NHS at the crossroads which was unveiled in March last year. Both reports, which gathered evidence from interested parties, were funded by Unite.

Roy Lilley , chair of the inquiries that formed the basis of the reports,said: “We would have liked to report that the picture had improved over the last 12 months – however, the situation has moved from serious to being in intensive care.

“Again, we have prepared a template for action to ameliorate the growing demands that threaten to overwhelm increasingly stretched services. We call on ministers to give the crisis facing the NHS in London the urgent attention and resources it needs.”

The key findings:

  • divisions within the NHS in London have never been deeper, and decisions by local GP-led commissioning groups are putting the future of frontline hospital services at risk. Almost all of London’s 32 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which hold the purse strings for the capital’s health services, are comfortably in surplus, and predicting a total of over £150 million underspend by the end of March.

Meanwhile, almost all of London’s 19 acute hospital trusts are deep ‘in the red’ and braced for an end of year deficit of almost £270 million.

  • the situation is set to worsen. While CCGs group together in five collaborative organisations and draw up strategic plans to tackle an estimated £4 billion gap between service needs and NHS resources by 2019, almost all of the savings and  ‘efficiencies’  they propose will be dumped onto the hospitals, mental health and community health services trusts.
  • most of the planned ‘savings’ centre on unproven plans to reduce numbers of patients treated as emergencies, as waiting list patients or as outpatients – all of which would drain vital funding from hospital budgets and put services and whole hospitals at risk.
  • to make matters worse, the plans to reduce access to hospital care are not matched by equivalent investment in services outside hospital – community health services, district nurses, or GPs and primary care.
  • the funding gap between resources and demand for social care, provided by local boroughs in London, is growing rapidly; councils warned that the gap by 2017/18 in London alone could be more £900 million.

The 10 key recommendations include:

  • a renewed call for a review of funding in London, given the increasing population.
  • the creation of a new type of London strategic health authority with democratic involvement – at present, commissioning is fragmented across the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
  • a swift reversal of the worst aspects of the Health and Social Care Act which has led to a wasted of £3 billion reorganisation, fragmenting NHS services.
  • further investment in ambulance services, which are losing 26 paramedics-a-week and struggling to fill 400 vacancies from as far afield as Australia.
  • the closing down of Healthwatch England and that patients’ interests are represented by new bodies fashioned in the style of the former community health councils.
  • adequate protection for whistleblowers.

Unite regional secretary for the London region Pete Kavanagh said: “This second report brings a detailed, but disturbing, analysis of how the Health and Social Care Act has caused havoc to NHS services in London.

“Some clear strategic thinking is desperately needed before the service implodes under the mounting pressures.”