Where will the axe fall?

The Tories are refusing to set out how they are going to cut £12 billion from the welfare budget. But documents leaked to the BBC show they are looking to hit carers, children and the disabled in the next round of cuts.

Labour urged the Tories to ‘come clean’ about where the axe will fall. They said their refusal to set out what their ‘secret’ intentions were before the election was ‘unacceptable’.

Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC the Tories may or may not set out details of £12 billion cuts before the election. He claimed he had not even discussed with chancellor George Osborne where the axe will fall.

He threw the Tories into further disarray by saying David Cameron will not serve a full five years as prime minister, despite his promise to do so. Any claims of a ‘long term plan’ on welfare and the future of David Cameron were dented in one BBC interview.

Chancellor George Osborne was wheeled out to ‘clarify’ the Tory refusal to set out where the cuts will fall until after the election.


Having failed to do so, David Cameron was wheeled out to set the record straight – no details of the £12 billion cuts until after the election.

The documents leaked to the BBC have thrown a spanner in the works. These outlined cuts to Carer’s Allowance, scrapping industrial injury benefit, taxing disability benefits, more cuts to child benefit and further benefit caps.

Duncan Smith, Osborne and Cameron claim none of these are official policy but fail to set out where the axe will fall. In this Parliament there have been £20 billion of cuts — an unprecedented level.

There has already been the ‘bedroom tax’, the level of benefits frozen or rises kept below inflation, and greater conditions and sanctions placed on a range of benefits. A number of grants to new mums and additional tax credits to help with the high cost of very young children have been axed.

Labour insists the Tories have a figure for the cuts – £12 billion – and are keeping the details under wraps until after polling day. They have pressed for the Tories to ‘come clean’ over their plans.

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary said: “The public have a right to know who will be hit by the Tories’ plan and they must now come clean on their £12 billion cuts.”

She said the “refusal to admit how children, disabled people, carers and working families will be hit by secret Tory plans six weeks before the election is completely unacceptable.”




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Why has Austerity failed?

Austerity is severe medicine administered by the minority for the majority, hence the notion of being, “All in it together” in practice is false. It is the Victorian bourgeois values of hard work not...

Striking for a fair deal

As UNITElive reported today, most of us expect our pay to stay the same this year or rise ever-so-slightly.

Drivers who transport disabled children to school for Hackney council, however, face something else entirely – an astounding 50 per cent slash in their wages as the local authority embarks on vicious cost-cutting measures.

The move has prompted Unite’s members to take strike action on Thursday (April 2) for 24 hours as the cuts could see their wages sink from an already paltry £24,000 to £12,000 – less than the annual gross salary of a full-time worker on the minimum wage.

The impending strike action was unanimously supported by members at 100 per cent in favour, and a further stoppage is scheduled for April 16.

This isn’t the only dispute involving local authority workers who face the twin evils of rampant privatisation and government austerity measures.

Another separate strike is set to take place on April 16 in Croydon, where drivers who also transfer disabled children are being attacked by the private company Impact, which runs transport services for the council.

With 92 per cent voting in favour, Unite’s passenger transport members in Croydon are striking after Impact has refused to negotiate a pay claim made by Unite which proposes the company pay all its workers at least the London Living Wage, currently set at £9.15 per hour.

Fair deal campaign

A race to the bottom in pay, terms and conditions and quality of service is an alarming trend among local governments, one that Unite aims to fight in one of its latest campaigns.

A Fair Deal for Local Government has been launched by Unite’s London and Eastern region, which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aiming to eradicate the very root of the problems plaguing local authorities by taking a stand against privatisation and austerity.

Through a set of proposals, Unite’s local government campaign outlines a procurement strategy to ensure that quality of service is maintained while staff also get the fair deal they deserve.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab explained that the campaign could not have come at a more fitting moment in time.

“Our overall campaign calls for a Fair Deal for Local Government and these two separate strikes are vivid, living, breathing examples of why our campaign is so important,” Kasab said.

Kasab noted that the impending strike actions are regrettable, especially given that they will affect disabled children.

“But,” he said, “if we don’t draw a line in the sand now, future cuts will be even worse.

“Councils should not be jumping to the Tories’ tune of privatisation and austerity – the public good should always come first.”

The main aim of Unite’s local authority campaign is just that – protecting the public good against private interests.

As part of its procurement strategy, the Fair Deal for Local Government campaign argues that if services are performing well, they should be left in-house. If they are not, local authorities should examine how they can be put right in-house.

When services must be contracted out, the main consideration – at least over 50 per cent – should be over quality rather than cost.

When staff are transferred, fair employment rights should be locked in, including paying the living wage and barring zero hours contracts, with no downward pay and conditions harmonisation.

For more information about Unite’s Fair Deal for Local Government campaign, visit the campaign’s website here, where you’ll learn exactly what’s gone wrong with local government, and what we can do – together – to change it.



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Here comes the sun – Banister House launches solar co-op

Tonight, residents at Banister House, Hackney are launching the first solar power farm in north London, not in a field but on the sunblest flat rooftops of 14 council blocks on the estate. Backed by Repowering London, Hackney Council and campaigners from Hackney Energy, Banister House Solar Energy...

Lebanese teachers join public sector strike

UCC chief Hanna Gharib (right) stands among teachers and civil sector workers outside education ministry office in Beirut on June 2, 2014. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

UCC chief Hanna Gharib (right) stands among teachers and civil sector workers outside education ministry office in Beirut on June 2, 2014. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

The UCC union federation which is co-ordinating the strike, is demanding that the government pass a public sector pay rise.

This is just the latest stage in a long battle for decent pay across the public and private school sector in Lebanon. There have been numerous strikes over the last three years, but none during the present academic year. As the leader of the private school teachers put it: ‘When we used to strike, they used to tell us: You are wreaking havoc everywhere. We did not go on strike this year, yet they have not granted us our rights.’ Concluding that remaining positive and peaceful as the government had urged them to do got them nowhere, the teachers struck yesterday and are threatening to strike again on April 23rd and scupper the end of the academic year in the country.

As we reported this time last year, the government had promised a pay increase but has reneged on that, partly through the intervention of business leaders who say the coutry cannot afford to give the teachers a pay rise. The International Monetary Fund has also intervened to demand that the government use its profits from hydrocarbons to pay down the country’s debt. Many politicians accept that the pay rise is necessary but some have suggested that it be funded through a rise in VAT which would have the biggest impact on the poor. Teachers completely reject this, saying that instead the government should put a stop to corruption and should tax the many very wealthy people in the country.

The anger of teachers and others is increased by the life-styles of the many super-rich who live in Lebanon in luxurious beach-side apartments, while teachers and others cannot afford to raise families on their salaries. Moreover, union leaders believe money is squandered through corruption and a failure to tax the rich adequately.

Lebanese teachers are also affected by the scourge of temporary contracts – many have been working for ten years, yet still have no contract and therefore no employment or pension rights.

Making self-employed lives liveable

Last week the RSA published a new report looking at the living standards of the self-employed. Why did we undertake this study? Simple: Because the self-employed community is booming but government, business and wider society have yet to catch up. In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of initiatives...

Still waiting

When chancellor George Osborne gave his speech to outline the government’s budget earlier this month, he hailed the UK’s supposedly growing economy, calling it the “Comeback Country”.

He claimed living standards were rising and that the coalition government had created a labour market that “made work pay”.

That Osborne’s speech was far from the truth has been yet again proven yesterday (March 30) as results from a survey show the vast majority of workers do not expect a pay rise of more than 2 per cent, with a sizeable portion expecting a pay freeze.

Only one in five workers expected an above 2 per cent pay rise, with almost 40 per cent saying they expected no change to their earnings this year.

For public sector workers the outlook was worse – 45 per cent of these workers expected flat or falling wages, while 40 per cent expected the same in the private sector.

Public sector workers expected on average a 0.8 per cent pay increase, while private sector workers expect a slightly higher average increase of 1.2 per cent.

Chris Williamson, chief economist for Markit, the financial information firm for which Ipsos Mori conducted the poll, called the results worrying.

“The survey data indicate that there are clearly few signs of pay growth picking up in 2015,” he said.

“This is a major concern as the sustainability of the economic upturn is largely dependent on pay growth reviving.

“Like many others, the Bank of England is expecting a revival of pay growth to help support ongoing robust economic growth this year,” Williamson added. “This data suggest policymakers are likely to be disappointed.”

The survey results also found that wage expectations were progressively lower on the scale, moving from higher earners to low earners, meaning that the bottom end of the labour market – those already struggling the most – expect to continue earning less.

The Guardian noted that much of the economic growth reported in the past year can be attributed to increased household spending. But this spending came mostly from consumers dipping into their savings.

“Without a stronger rise in wages than the 1.6% growth rate registered in the latest official figures,” the Guardian asserted yesterday, “consumer demand growth could peter out.”

This means that any promise of an economic boom that the coalition government predictably trots out as the election nears will be nothing more than a mirage.

Indeed, even as the Bank of England had predicted that a fall in unemployment would translate into higher wages, their models were spectacularly wrong — the 4 per cent higher earnings figures they predicted hover below 2 per cent now.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the results of the survey demonstrate that working people have yet to gain from an economy that’s supposedly on the up and up.

“These results are further proof that Osborne and the rest of his Tory pals are merely inventing an economic recovery in the hopes that we won’t notice the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes,” he said.

“The economy will remain in the gutter until the gains those at the top have enjoyed throughout the financial crisis and beyond are shared fairly with working people who are the true wealth creators,” he added.

“Britain needs a pay rise now to truly boost the economy. The minimum wage can and must be raised by £1.50, something our research has found is entirely affordable. Returning strength to unions and sector-level collective bargaining will also go a long way in addressing accelerating income inequality and the expanding swaths of working people on poverty pay.”




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Publicly-owned railways would be 10% cheaper, says new research

action for rail rmt aslef tssaSeason tickets could be 10 per cent cheaper by 2017 if rail services were run by the public sector, according to new research published by the Action for Rail campaign today.

The research, carried out by Transport for Quality of Life, shows that £1.5bn could be saved over the next five years if routes, including the Northern, Transpennine and West Coast Main Line, were operated by the public sector.

Contracts on 11 train lines will come up for renewal between 2015 and 2020; Northern, Transpennine, Greater Anglia, West Coast, London Midland, East Midlands, South Eastern, Wales & Borders, Great Western, South Western and Cross Country.

The report says that if they were run by the public sector the Treasury would be able to pass on massive savings to commuters over the next five years, including introducing free off peak travel for children travelling with their parents.

The biggest saving would come from recouping the money train companies currently operating these routes pay to their shareholders.

The report estimates that £520m million in shareholder dividends alone could be saved if the 11 train lines were run by the public sector when their franchise came to an end.

The study says that if the 11 routes were operated by the public sector the following could happen:

– Before the end of 2015 it would be possible to introduce free off peak travel for children travelling with their parents

– From 2017 regulated fares – including season and anytime day tickets – could be cut by 10 per cent.

– From 2020 all fares could be cut by 3 per cent.

The study comes after separate Action for Rail research revealed that commuters on the UK’s privatised railways could be spending more than twice as much of their salary on rail travel than passengers on publicly-owned railways in France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

On the eve of the 21st anniversary of rail privatisation, rail unions will today begin a day of action at over 40 stations throughout the UK, including Liverpool Lime Street, Glasgow Central, Nottingham and Portsmouth, as part of the Action for Rail campaign.

Campaigners are today outside London Waterloo mainline station handing out leaflets to passengers, which highlight the high costs of fares and privatisation and call for public ownership of the railways.

TUC General Secretary and chair of Action for Rail, Frances O’Grady said: “The UK has the most expensive rail fares in all of Europe. If services were run by the public sector it would make a big difference to families and hard-pressed commuters who have suffered year after year of wage-busting fare increases under privatised rail.

“This report highlights once again the huge cost of privatisation to taxpayers and passengers. Money that could be spent on making journeys cheaper is instead being siphoned off into shareholders’ pockets and wasted on bidding and other franchising costs.

“The case for an integrated rail network under public ownership is overwhelming.”

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, and the government talks of value for money, delivering a different model that could cut fares makes sense not only for the passenger but for the taxpayer. Let’s ease the burden on everyone now by doing what the public are demanding.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “British people ‎ have had enough of the exploitation and racketeering and support public ownership of our railways.

“The British passenger pays the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed-out and unreliable services, while the private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank. The recent shocking pictures of the dangerous overcrowding at London Bridge are the culmination of two decades of privatisation.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This report confirms what we have been saying for the past twenty years, a public railway is a cheaper railway. In Germany, France, Spain and Italy fares really are cheaper because their railways are all publicly-owned.”

Unite national rail officer Tony Murphy said: “This report only reinforces what Unite has been saying for years – that rail privatisation is driven by a right-wing ideology and not for the benefit of the hard-pressed commuter.

“The UK has the most expensive rail system in Europe because of the demands of shareholders who cream off the cash at the expense of rail travellers who are faced with annual fare rises way beyond the rate of inflation.

“As the private rail contracts come up for renewal, they should be allowed to lapse and the services should be taken back into public ownership for the good of the travelling public and their wallets and purses, and not rapacious shareholders.”

Queen (salary £38m) faces industrial action from staff (salary £14k)

QueenThe royal family faces industrial action by low paid staff in Windsor Castle as the PCS today opens a ballot over allowances.

It would be the first such action specific to the Royal Households and comes after years of pay restraint has left loyal workers paid below the widely-recognised Living Wage, with new recruits starting on as little as £14,400 a year.

Despite this, staff are expected to carry out extra unpaid duties, including giving tours of the castle – even though visitors are charged for these – and acting as language interpreters and first aiders.

The union, which represents 120 of the 200 staff at Windsor, says non-strike industrial action would involve withdrawal of this goodwill, and would have a significant impact on the services provided to visitors.

An unsatisfactory pay offer for 2014 was only narrowly accepted by staff on the understanding that the additional allowances would be considered this year.

But senior officials in the Royal Households have again refused to reward staff for their goodwill and pay allowances for additional duties.

The ballot opens today and closes on 14 April, with industrial action planned to start from the end of the month.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These workers are loyal to their employer and absolutely committed to ensuring visitors are given the royal treatment.

“It is scandalous that staff are so appallingly paid and expected to do work for free that brings in money for the royal family.”

WIN! Aircraft engineer wins BA unfair dismissal case

British AirwaysAircraft engineer John Higgins has won his protracted legal battle with British Airways for unfair dismissal.

The Prospect member worked for the company for more than 27 years but was dismissed after an error on a maintenance task, when he sought to repair a mistake by a colleague, on a day when BA was very short staffed.

He appealed against the dismissal as he had an exemplary career and BA had recorded the error as having little or no airworthiness risk. But, although his appeal was successful, British Airways would only agree to reinstate him as a mechanic, a position several grades lower that would see him lose his status as a licensed aircraft engineer.

John resigned and pursued a claim of unfair constructive dismissal. A tribunal agreed that demotion was such an extreme and disproportionate sanction in the circumstances that it amounted to constructive dismissal.

Speaking after the ruling, John said: “It is essential that any moves to undermine the status of the licensed aircraft engineer are opposed.

“I could not have done this without the support of the union’s Association of Licensed Aircraft Engineers branch which has seen me through this very difficult time.”

Prospect full-time officer Malcolm Currie, who along with union representative Keith Rogers gave evidence to the tribunal, said: “Thank goodness John was a member of Prospect or he would have been left to try to fight this without any resources or support. It’s so important for people to join a union.”

“If the employer had been successful in dismissing John under these circumstances the effect would have been to inhibit other engineers from reporting incidents to ensure the industry is as safe as it possibly can be.”

Marion Scovell, head of Prospect Legal, said: “This is a great result. Constructive unfair dismissal cases are very difficult to win because the law creates a very high hurdle for claimants. In this case the tribunal found that the decision to demote Mr Higgins was disproportionate and I’m delighted that they found in his favour.”

Milk strike off after “amicable conclusion”

milkStrike action by 100 milk delivery drivers, who recently transferred from Leeds-based Arla Foods to haulage company Moran Logistics, has been averted.

The strike action due to commence at midnight has been called off.

The members deliver milk to Tesco, Aldi, Morrison and ASDA supermarkets from Nottingham to the North East on the east of the Pennines and in Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire west of the Pennines.

GMB regional officer Rachel Dix said: “Both parties can confirm that an amicable conclusion has been reached so that no strike action will take place.”