Kids’ taxi drivers on strike over 50% pay cut plans

taxi signTaxi drivers taking disabled children to schools and play clubs are today on strike over plans by Hackney Council to cut their pay by 50%.

Another separate strike involving Unite passenger transport members in Croydon, who also transfer disabled children, has been called on 16 April at Impact, the private company which runs passenger transport services for the council.

Impact is refusing to negotiate a pay claim made by Unite which proposes that the company pay all its workers, at least, the London ‘living wage’ which is currently £9.15-an-hour.  The vote was 92 per cent in favour of strike action.

The disputes come against a backdrop of the launch a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.

The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.

#Solidarity with @unitetheunion members on strike today at Hackney Council
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Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “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.

“We regret that disabled children will be inconvenienced by Thursday’s strike, but 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 truth behind THAT Telegraph letter – GMB uncovers list of Tory donors, tax dodgers and blacklisters

Daily TelegraphThe bosses who signed the Daily Telegraph letter asking voters to support the Tories run companies with links to tax dodging, blacklisting, zero hours contracts, pubcos, potential job losses and collapse of Southern Cross care homes.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “The 103 company bosses talking about what is good for them include:

  • The boss of one company named in the Lux leaks tax dodging scandal; · The bosses of two blacklisting companies
  • · The bosses of at least two companies linked to workers on zero hours
  • The bosses of five pubco companies accused of ripping off pub customers
  • The boss of one company where there are potential redundancies;
  • a landlord of care homes run by Southern Cross which collapsed in 2011;
  • 30 known Tory donors giving the impression they are not partisans.

“This list of shame shows that voters are faced with a stark choice – a party governing in the interest of corporate bosses with zero hours contracts and for tax breaks for the wealthy elite or a party seeking to provide rights and protection for working people.”

Thirty of the 103 signatories are known Tory donors: DFS, Alex Baldock Shop Direct, Lord Bamford JCB, Cobra Beer, Zameer Choudrey Bestway, Neil Clifford, Ron Denis, Towergate, Sir Charles Dunstone, John Elliot, Julian Granville, Bloomberg Westfield, Aidan Heavey, Oliver Hemsley, GCH Capital, Sir George Iacobescu Canary Wharf, Travelex, Nick Jenkins, Nick Leslau, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Tony Pidgley CBE, Sir Nigel Rudd, Fuller, Smith & Turner, Ernst and Young, Veetee Rice, Paul Walsh, Wates, The Hon. Charles Wigoder, Caledonia Investments

Labour promises to scrap ET fees

Labour Party logoUnions have welcomed Labour’s manifesto A Better Plan for Britain’s Workplaces.

The manifesto, published yesterday, sets out what the party says will ensure that those who do a hard day’s work are rewarded for doing so as part of a plan to build an economy that creates secure and better-paid jobs.

The key points are:

  •  Labour will raise the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 before 2020.
  • We will ban exploitative zero-hours contracts – so that if you work regular hours, you get a regular contract.
  • We will make it illegal to use agency workers to undercut wages of permanent employees.
  • We will guarantee an apprenticeship for all school-leavers who get the grades.
  • We will double paternity leave to four weeks and increase the level of pay so that families can afford to take up their entitlement.

The TUC welcomed plans to abolish the employment tribunal fees system and clamp down on exploitative zero-hours contracts.

It also welcomed proposals to have workers sit on company pay committees and to launch an inquiry into the illegal blacklisting of union members by unscrupulous employers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Today’s proposals will restore some much needed fairness and democracy to the workplace.

“Abolishing tribunal fees and exploitative zero-hours contracts will make it much harder for Britain’s worst bosses to mistreat their staff and undercut good employers.

“And putting workers on to company pay committees will help regain public confidence in executive pay which has shot up by 26 per cent in real terms in the life of this government.

“We need employment rights that are fit for the Twenty-First Century and make people feel secure and productive at work. It is time to end the hire and fire culture of recent years.”

UCATT specifically welcomed the following points:

  •    A full inquiry into Blacklisting that is transparent and public
  • Commitment to tackle all forms of false self-employment in the construction industry
  • An end to exploitative Zero Hours contracts
  • Release of all papers relating to the Shrewsbury 24 trials
  • A review of workplace safety arrangements including support for occupational health

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “Construction workers and their families are being listened to by Labour, this is shown by their unstinting commitment to implement policies that will address the injustices faced by our members in work today and of course in support of those members that were cruelly Blacklisted in the past.

“Labour has also pledged to release all papers regarding the Shrewsbury trials, again a major step forward in achieving justice for victims of what UCATT believe to be a political conspiracy. These actions can only help inform our members in making their decision to vote for change in May and return a Labour government that will stay true to values of fairness and equality.

“These detailed policies show that Labour and Ed Miliband possess a level of knowledge and understanding about the need to change the way the British economy is run so that it acts in the interest of all not just the privileged few at the top. Ed has shown that he understands the key issues in the world of work that face our members on a daily basis.

“This workplace manifesto sets clear red water between the choice for voters in this general election. It’s progressive change under Labour or tax cuts for the rich and more austerity for the rest under the Tories.”

Stop the suffering

Imagine being a single parent struggling on benefits. You look long and hard for some sort of stable job – anything that will pay the bills and feed your child. You’re finally hired. It’s on a zero hours contract, but no matter. At least it’s something.

Kelly, this young woman’s father, recalls how overjoyed his daughter was to finally be given the opportunity to get back on her feet.

“She was so happy when she first got the job; so over the moon,” Kelly explains. “She was given a certain number of hours every week while she was in training to be a health worker.

“But when she completed her training, they almost stopped giving her any hours – three hours here, three hours there.

“They would call her one day and ask if she could come in the next day. As a single parent, my daughter would tell them, ‘Let me just see if my father can look after his granddaughter.’ Then they’d text her back and tell her not to bother, that they’ve found someone else.”

Now, Kelly says, his daughter is completely distraught.

“She wanted so badly to get off unemployment benefits; she wanted to work so she could pay her own bills,” he explains.

“But they’ve put her in a position where she doesn’t know whether she’s working or not working. I can’t believe an organisation can behave in this way to people. And we allow it to happen. It’s just crazy.”

Kelly was one of the many people who called in to BBC Radio 5 this morning (April 1) to tell their personal stories about life on a zero hours contract – an exploitative work arrangement that’s exploded in popularity under the coalition government’s watch.

Now, it is estimated that there 1.8m people on such contracts. And figures indicate that these contracts are being used on an increasingly exponential scale – of the new jobs created over the past year, one in seven have been zero hours jobs.

Growing epidemic

In response to what Ed Miliband called an “epidemic” of zero hours contracts, Labour announced today (April 1) that, if elected, it would take decisive action to stop this epidemic.

The party has committed to a ban of the exploitative contracts, and will guarantee anyone working regular hours for 12 weeks the right to a regular contract.

Labour will also give workers on zero-hours contracts new legal rights that will bar employers from forcing workers to be available at all hours. They will likewise prohibit the common practice of cancelling shifts at short notice without compensation.

It’s just the sort of measure that would help Steven’s son, who lives in Wigan and works in a meat-packing factory on a zero hours contract.

Steven explains what his son — who was made redundant years ago and has struggled to find regular work since — is put through on a daily basis.

“He doesn’t drive, so he has to wake up at half past 3 in the morning, walk three quarters of an hour to the other side of Wigan to catch a bus so he’s at the factory at 6,” Steven says.

“He gets there and they say ‘Oh sorry, we should have rung you up, there’s no work today.’

Steven, who has just now retired, calls his son’s situation “disgraceful”.

“I would never want to start my working career now in this day and age,” Steven adds.

Impossible to live

But John, a caterer, has no other option – working in Cameron’s day and age of insecure work and poverty pay is his only choice.

“You don’t know how much money you’re going to earn,” he told BBC Radio 5 this morning. “You see your rota for the week – it’s 30 hours and you think, ‘Yeah I can get by on that.’

“And then you end up getting only 25 hours after you get quarter hours, half hours lopped off here and there.
John explains just how impossible it is to live on a zero hours contract.

“You just can’t budget to pay your bills up all the way to the next month,” he says. “I can’t say to the local authority, ‘I’m only going to be able to pay you 90 of the 105 pound of council tax because I’ve lost a few hours at work.’ They’re not interested.”

Linda*, a council worker on a zero hours contract, explains how even the simplest choices become unbearable while living in the nightmarish limbo of irregular hours.

“My oven blew up yesterday and I had to think long and hard about buying a new one,” she said, not knowing whether next month’s earnings would be enough to cover her basic expenses.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey condemned the suffering that so many millions of workers are put through under such exploitative work arrangements.

“Zero hours contracts mean misery for workers and their families, stuck on this hand-to-mouth existence, not knowing from one week to next whether there’ll be any work , let alone enough to cover the bills,” he said.

“This insecurity has exploded on David Cameron’s watch where from social care to high street big names we have an economy built on shaky jobs and chronic low pay,” he added. “This is not an economic plan to be proud of but economic pain to be ashamed of.”

Still, McCluskey argued that today’s news of Labour’s clampdown on zero hours contracts meant that, on the eve of a general election, there’s still hope.

“Labour is absolutely right to take action against insecure work,” he said. “Millions of families just getting by will at last see someone on their side, and a Labour Party determined to build an economy where we can all reap the rewards.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity


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GMB join in mass rally of public sector workers in Belfast to demonstrate against the cuts

Denise Walker GMB Organiser, addresses the demonstration on behalf of the GMB outside Belfast City Hall

Denise Walker GMB Organiser, addresses the demonstration on behalf of the GMB outside Belfast City Hall

Recently, the buses and trains are at a standstill, clinics are empty, children are absent from school… it’s not a script from a horror movie it’s a revolt involving tens of thousands of public sector workers across Northern Ireland who took strike action to oppose the cuts planned in the Stormont House Agreement and Assembly budget.

GMB members joined in the action on the day with workers in Translink, (the public transport company), Health Service workers, school support staff and Northern Ireland Civil Service workers on strike.

Members are angry at the Government proposals to borrow £700 million to ‘invest’ in redundancies that will see upwards of 20,000 jobs cut from the public sector. Northern Ireland’s public sector is already under serious pressure and many staff are under considerable stress, hospital wards and ED departments are already operating at dangerously low staffing levels. The Stormont House Agreement will also see the implementation of stringent welfare reforms in exchange for the fiscal power to determine corporation tax. The rate favoured by the politicians is 12.5% in line with the Republic of Ireland, however this policy, if adopted will see the block grant decimated to repay the subsidy to big corporations back to treasury. Big companies that already do everything in their power to avoid paying taxes will be given a hand out at the expense of our schools, hospitals, transport and community services.

Strike action was complemented on the day with mass rallies and marches taking place throughout Northern Ireland. Belfast saw crowds of around 10,000 march through the city centre for a rally at the City Hall addressed by Denise Walker GMB Organiser and by GMB young member and president of the Union of Students Ireland, Rebecca Hall. Rebecca called the politians irresponsible for gambling with the future of our young people to give big businesses a tax cut. She led the crowd in chants of ‘Shame on Them’ Denise said ‘We are fighting for our communities, our rights to a decent life, decent education and decent health service. We are fighting to protect our public transport system and not just the jobs that make up the public sector but the vital services that rely on these jobs being done. We are fighting too for a strong private sector which will only too soon see the toxic effect of huge job loses in the public sector.

In Derry/Londonderry, Jim Donley, GMB Organiser addressed the rally at the Guildhall. Jim on the subject of the rebalancing exercise of the public sector in Northern Ireland told the crowd, “In truth the rebalancing they talk about is one of zero hour contracts, minimum wages, pound shops and food banks as the thousands of working poor continue to grow poorer

“The message to Stormont and Westminster was clear – ‘hands off our Public Services'”

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The claim, the maths and the reality

As the general election campaign heats up, prime minister David Cameron made a startling claim on Monday night (March 30) – under his watch, he says, 1,000 jobs were created every day, an accomplishment he pledges to continue if a Conservative government were to be elected in May.

Sounds great, but just how much does this claim hold up under scrutiny?

Basic arithmetic does indeed point to an average of 1,000 jobs created a day over the term of the coalition government – divide the 1.8m jobs created since 2010 by the number of days in five years and the figure is more or less accurate.

But this gross simplification disguises certain inconvenient truths that the Tories are trying their best to hide as the election nears.

Take, for example, that the rising employment numbers have not been accompanied by an attendant rise in wages. In fact, the situation is just the opposite – as more and more people are funnelled into often low-paying work, wages have plummeted over the past five years.

Since inflation has outpaced earnings for all these years, the coalition government has presided over a labour market in which, no matter how hard you work, the work simply doesn’t pay.


The explosive rise in the use of food banks demonstrates that 1,000 jobs a day is no antidote to poverty. In fact, last year, a House of Commons Library analysis found that in-work poverty had exploded over the term of the coalition government – by almost 60 per cent. Now, if you are below the breadline, you are just as likely to be in work as out.

The number of people on zero hours contracts, in which employers are not obliged to provide workers a minimum number of hours, has quadrupled since 2010, further fuelling an economy based on insecure, low-paying work.

And then there’s the growing dominance of self-employment – of the 1,000 jobs created each day since 2010, a 400 of them have been in this category. We are now looking at a jobs landscape in which self-employment is at its highest level in almost half a century.

While a nation of self-employed workers may call to mind a society of bright-eyed, innovative entrepreneurs, the reality is far different – the vast majority of newly created self-employed jobs are in industries such as taxi driving, construction and carpentry.

Wages for self-employed workers are half that of full-time employees, and have fallen by almost a quarter since the financial crisis.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner argues that Cameron’s latest jobs pledge is nothing but a campaign promise without substance, designed only to make headlines.

“David Cameron’s claims will ring hollow with the millions struggling to make ends meet in low paid insecure work,” he said.

“He plucks figures out of the air, but is silent about the need for decent jobs that pay a decent wage, because on his watch we’ve seen a shift to a low waged, low skilled economy where zero hour contracts have become the employment model of choice for many employers.

“We need commitments for decent, secure jobs not the empty out of touch rhetoric of David Cameron.”



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Resolute in purpose

Workers at the Northampton plant of one of the world’s largest packaging firms have begun a 48-hour strike over the dismissal of two Unite shop stewards.

Unite members at Smurfit Kappa, who had previously been working to rule, walked out at midnight (April 1) calling for their colleagues to be immediately reinstated.

Speaking from a noisy picket line this morning Unite regional officer Mick Orpin said, “significantly at twelve o’clock last night the whole factory walked out and it’s really humbling to see so many people out here today.

World-wide support


“We have support from colleagues across the country, Ireland and the world,” he said, “we have messages of support coming in to us every few minutes.”

Orpin feels management at the paper packaging company have been acting “in a manner more suited to industrial relations of the 19th century.”

He firmly believes the strike action by more than one hundred Unite members at the plant will force bosses back to the negotiating table following “a direct attack on the union and our representatives.”

Unite claim the two dismissed staff – senior steward Geoff Butcher and deputy senior steward Paul Metcalfe – were sacked after they “stood up to the company over ‘race to the bottom’ contracts and alleged incorrect bonus payments.”

This morning, also speaking from the picket line, Butcher told UNITElive he was “angry and amazed” at the firm’s stance and warned bosses that Unite’s resolve was strong.

“We had a mass meeting on Sunday and I would think around 80 per cent of the workforce were there. That filled us with a hell of lot of confidence and we have had a lot of people turning up outside the factory door today.”

Local Unite officers say the strike action could be escalated to a further four day stoppage unless the sacked representatives are allowed back to work.



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Tolpuddle 2015 tickets on sale today

Tolpuddle 2014Tickets for the 2015 Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival go on sale today.

Organised by the South West TUC, the event runs from July 17th to 19th in Dorset, with Billy Bragg making a welcome return. Also appearing are 2-Tone legends The Beat, folk singers Seth Lakeman and Naomi Bedford, and socialist R & B favourites Thee Faction.

Speakers on the Sunday include TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, TUC president Leslie Manasseh, Angela Eagle MP and Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.

Jonny and The Baptists, Dana Immanuel and Irish punks Neck play in the marquee on Saturday night, with all-female indie ban The Tuts, Chris T-T and the Hoodrats and Curtis Eller’s American Circus performing on Friday night.

The event remembers the six farmworkers who, in 1834, were transported to Australia after forming a trade union to campaign for a pay rise.

Details of tickets are here.