Wednesday, 7 February 2018

CAPITALISM ROBS WORKERS: profit plunders pay


Capitalism creates the Great Class Divide

We may as well live on two separate planets, given the grotesque and growing divide between the rich elite and the rest of us.

This week a media flurry erupted over the crash on the world's Stock Exchanges, starting with the US, then Asia and Europe.
The prime explanation given by apologists for the system we live and work under was something like this: recent US economic reports showed wage growth, which will boost spending power, so companies will feel empowered to jack up prices in the face of increased demand, thereby fueling inflation, which will pressurize the authorities to put up interest rates... so shareholders are dumping their shares.
Of course, the upper-class casino that is the stock market bears little relationship to the real world and the real economy - except that panic in the Stock Exchanges can spread panic amongst capitalist investors and thereby lead to slashing of jobs for workers in the real world.  

Two Planets 

What crazy system do we suffer, whereby working people being able to buy a bit more becomes a problem? The system based on profit for the few, through robbery of the unpaid labour of workers by employers; that's the lunacy at large. 
  

The system where, globally, the richest 1% grabbed 82% of all the new wealth created last year. The system where a year ago 68 billionaires owned as much personal wealth as half the globe's entire population - 3.6 billion humans. But this year the concentration of wealth has accelerated further: now a mere 61 gluttons of greed match the incomes of the poorest 3.6 billion people. That's beyond obscene. 


DPD courier driver Don Lane, with his wife Ruth. 

Profiteering Kills Workers 

The same week that frenzied selling of shares on the Stock Exchange hit the headlines, a terrible tragedy of exploitation at work didn't make much media coverage, even though it captures much of what is rotten and unequal about the world we live in. 

We have often spoken and written that the capitalist employers use fear as their weapon of choice when it comes to squeezing every last penny of profit out of workers' labour. Nothing confirms this more than the tragic case of Don Lane, a DPD courier driver in Dorset, who died of diabetes last week at the young age of 53.
As his devastated wife Ruth explained, Don had collapsed four times at work in the space of a year, and just prior to his untimely death had been sick and coughing blood, but still went into work. Why? In Ruth's words, "Because he feared being fined." 

Don had skipped numerous hospital appointments with kidney specialists after being previously fined £150 for missing a day's work to attend the hospital. When he wrote appealing for the fine to be rescinded, the parcel delivery firm's area manager refused, writing "I fail to understand why a full day off was required." 

Out of fear of being fined - or even fired - Don missed several subsequent medical appointments. Ruth added: "He would never get breaks and they'd get told off if they missed their time slots for parcel deliveries." 

This outrageous inhumanity is all too indicative of the cruel exploitation for profit - at terrible cost to workers' health - that fuels the system and its capitalist owners' profits.
Recent reports confirm fewer days are now taken off sick in the UK than at any time since 1990. We all witness the workers dragging themselves into work when they should be in their sick-bed (if only to keep their germs away from the rest of us!), from fear of being disciplined under sick absence policy, or simply because they can't afford the loss of wages. 


Tesco: boss on £4.1m - 40,000 jobs cut & deprive women workers of £4bn

Demand Equal Pay for Women 

The double oppression of working-class women is another source of super-profits for big business, and always has been a feature of this class-ridden system. That includes unequal pay for work of equal value.
The big supermarkets are amongst the culprits, adding to the gender pay gap. As well as collective claims in ASDA and Sainsbury's, Tesco now faces legal action on an equal pay claim that could cost them up to £4billion. Put the right way round, that's the amount they've deprived women workers in their shops of, by paying shop assistants about £8-an-hour compared with £11-an-hour to predominantly male distribution centre workers. Both contribute to the accumulation of profit - including the Tesco group sales of £49.9billion last year alone!
It's by robbing all workers - but their female staff even more so - that Tesco's Chief Executive Officer enjoyed a personal income last year of £4.1million! That's his reward - to himself! - for slashing 40,000 Tesco jobs since he took over in 2014.
The fight for equal pay is an integral part of the struggle to end capitalist exploitation. 

Bad Jobs Recovery 

A new, comprehensive report from the European Trade Union Institute, on what's called the Jobs Quality Index, confirms what experience already teaches most of us. Compared with 2005, and despite the feeble economic recovery after the 2008 financial crash, there's been a generalized decline in the quality of jobs across the EU's 28 member states, plus wage stagnation. One of the many features identified is the explosion of temporary contracts, zero hours contracts, and deep-rooted job insecurity. 

Importantly, the report highlights how, in general, higher density of trade union membership and collective worker representation correlates to better wages, improved skills training and career development, and better overall working conditions. And this research also buries the lie that we have to choose between more jobs and more in our wages. Nations with better pay (after adjustments for prices through Purchasing Power Parity) also generally have a better record of creating jobs. 

But the galloping growth of insecure work and underemployment has not abated, even in nations where the economy has grown in economic output (GDP). Is it any wonder the report is entitled "Bad Jobs Recovery"

Zero Hours Wage Robbery

In this country, at least a million workers suffer the horrendous stress and insecurity of being hired on zero hours contracts. It's no accident that a report last year showed young people on these super-exploitative schemes were 50% more likely to suffer mental health problems than their counterparts in more secure work. Nor should it be forgotten that, as research in 2017 proved, those on zero hours contracts suffer an average £1,000 less in wages than workers in permanent jobs with similar backgrounds, skills and job roles. 

Alongside short hour contracts, the 7-year public sector pay cap, and the use of the blunt instrument of fear of the sack, zero hours contracts are one of the means by which wages have been systematically slashed as a share of overall national wealth. Methods by which wages for workers in this country have stagnated and fallen at the worst rate since the Napoleonic Wars, 200 years ago! 

Mass Underemployment 

Mass unemployment was the curse of the working class in the 1980s and 1990s - consciously inflicted by Maggie Thatcher and the parasitic financial wing of the capitalist class. Mass underemployment is its modern equivalent, with at least 3.3 million workers crying out for more contract hours - including the wish to move from part-time to full-time - but unable to get them, as employers rely instead on a pool of workers they can have at their beck and call... according to fluctuating 'business needs'. 


And this week's Westminster legislation on the issue of 'good work' offers absolutely no protection to workers, and a lot of loopholes that protect employers' ruthless profiteering. Following the advice of Lord Taylor's Report, they are keeping zero hours contracts, with the hackneyed excuse that people need flexible working. And instead of wiping out bogus self-employment scams in the 'gig economy', the Tories are providing get-out clauses to the exploiters through a new category of 'dependent contractors' - which still prevents those who in real life are employed workers from being entitled to at least the legal minimum wage, paid holidays and sick pay. 


My USDAW NEC election poster

For Guaranteed Minimum 16-hour Contracts 

That's why the pioneering policy of a guaranteed minimum 16-hour contract for all who want it is so timely. In the past month, I've been waging a campaign for election to the National Executive Council of my union, Usdaw. Visiting scores of workplaces, and broadcasting campaign videos, I highlighted, in particular, my determination to help lead the battles for an immediate £10 minimum wage for all over 16 - rising with inflation, with equal pay for women - and replacement of zero hours and pitifully short hours contracts with a guaranteed 16 hours. 

Concretely, that employers should be legally obliged to offer at least 16-hour contracts, with the only exception being where a worker - accompanied by their union rep, to prevent any skulduggery - requests lesser hours. And alongside that, I've fought for the legal right of all workers to be offered higher contract hours after working more than their contract for 13 weeks. Those two measures would wipe out the galloping disease of casualisation, but give workers the power to be flexible. 

Workers' eyes lit up at the mention of these points. Numerous retail workers in every conceivable firm said they'd vote for me on that basis alone. Regardless of whether I get elected to the Usdaw NEC to represent our 45,000 Scottish members, the issues have been broadcast; the awareness of these simple, hard-hitting, far-reaching alternatives broadened. 

Lessons from Germany 

We need every union to take up the cudgels around these fighting demands. Such measures would begin to reverse the vicious spiral of insecure contracts, accompanying poverty pay, which lowers spending power, adding to job scarcity and insecurity. 

And if the union leaderships showed the bottle to organise and inspire workers to take action for these immediate reforms in the way we work - and the way wealth is distributed - it would infinitely strengthen the unions' collective strength, helping to seriously challenge the rotten, unequal, profit-crazed system of inbuilt exploitation that is capitalism. 


Further proof of this vision can be currently spotted in Germany. The economy has grown - but of course, as in other countries, that's no guarantee of improvement for workers' living standards. It takes determined, collective action to win a share of the increased wealth for the one productive class in society - the working class. Germany's biggest union, IG Metall, has just won massive concessions for nearly a million members in the metal and engineering sector, after staging a series of 24-hour strikes. They fought for a pay rise and won 4.3%. They also demanded a 28-hour week, and originally demanded this should be with little or no cut to the earnings from the current 35-hour week. Unfortunately, the deal reached accepts the employers' demand that reduction to a 28-hour week also involves an equivalent cut to pay. But for workers who want a shorter working week, this is a significant breakthrough, achieved through the power of union strike action.


Join the fight for an immediate 35-hour maximum working week

Cuts Hours of Work - With No Loss of Pay 

Learning from this, unions in Scotland should not only step up to the plate and wage a serious fight for an immediate minimum of at least £10-an-hour, and a guaranteed 16-hour week, but also for a shorter working week - to share out the work and slash the drudgery and overwork that many suffer. Millions of workers are suffering back-breaking, mind-breaking long hours of work - simply to survive, as hourly wage rates fall or stagnate compared with rising inflation on the daily necessities of life for working-class families. 

But crucially, a shorter working week shouldn't be on the basis of equivalent pay cuts. We should demand an across-the-board maximum working week of 35 hours now - rapidly moving to a 4-day week and 6-hour day - without a penny in loss of earnings. 

Maximum Working Week
As well as sharing out the work, and improving work/life balance, this would free up time for workers to actively participate in the democratic functioning of their communities and workplaces - for the first time in history! And a shorter working week without loss of earnings would also radically redistribute the wealth - created by workers' combined efforts in the first place - from profits to pay.
The unions have a duty to make the clarion call for action, demanding "Cut hours and profits - not pay or jobs!" 




Wednesday, 22 November 2017

DEMAND £10 NOW AND NOT A PENNY OFF JOBS OR SERVICES!


Part of SSP National Day of Action 18 November  

As the Scottish government and 32 local councils prepare their Budgets for 2018/19, the Scottish Socialist Party has launched a new campaigning drive for an immediate minimum £10 Living Wage to be written into 'No Cuts' Budgets. 

This is an urgent, realistic demand, well within the powers of Holyrood and the local authorities - who between them employ 500,000 workers - and a potentially powerful breakthrough in the battle for a £10 minimum wage, here and now, for all workers over 16, with equal pay for women. 

"I'm for Austerity - Get me out of here!"


If SNP, Labour, or any other MSPs and councillors reject this demand - alongside reversing seven years of the income-slashing pay cap, plus protection of every single service - they should be rejected and evicted by voters. 

To amend the slogan currently made 'popular' by Kezia Dugdale, such axe-wielding politicians should admit: "I'm for austerity, get me out of here!"

There's absolutely no excuse for one, single person suffering the indignity, deprivation and inhumanity of being impoverished in such a rich country. Scotland has ten billionaires, piles of profit, enormous resources and skilled workers. It's a question of radically redistributing the wealth. 

Paradise for the Parasites

This battle is set in the midst of paradise for the profiteers, and hell on earth for millions struggling to survive in a sea of poverty. 


The recently leaked 'Paradise Papers' confirmed the grotesque, legalized robbery of the rest of us by the rich, with conservative estimates of big business and obscenely rich individuals hiding over £30trillion in offshore tax havens. 

Corporations like Apple and Nike are in the company of tax thieves like Bono and the Queen; dodging taxes, robbing society of £billions, stealing wages, pensions, benefits and public services off the working class. 

A full 80% of all offshore wealth is in the hands of a minuscule 0.1% of the population (that's one in 1,000). 

Multinational businesses shifted $600billion to these (overwhelmingly British) offshore tax havens last year alone. 

The PCS civil service union's research has already shown £120billion every year is dodged in taxes by the rich and big business - the equivalent of four years of Scotland's block grant budget from Westminster. 


Tales of Poverty Amidst Plenty


This legalized, systematic theft helps create a living hell of plummeting pay, life-threatening benefit cuts, and decimation of vital public services. 

Socialist exaggeration? Absolutely not! Anyone in touch with the conditions of the working class majority will testify to the mounting desperation amongst the poorest; the inability of even middle-income workers to match the rising cost of living; and the ticking time-bomb of mental ill-health created by impossible workloads and stress from poverty and debt.

Let's sample just a few examples. 

The one million people in Scotland officially below the poverty line, 52% of them in jobs, working to stay poor. 

The 'hunger-watch' scheme initiated by the EIS teachers' union two years ago, to help spot children unable to concentrate because of literal hunger. 

The equivalent of Dundee city's population who swallowed their pride and turned to food banks in Scotland last year to avert starvation. 

The welfare rights workers who are on the brink of physical and mental collapse with overwork and the harrowing daily experience of desperation amongst clients: the man working 60 hours a week as a taxi just to pay the mortgage and feed his child after his marriage ended; the blind man removed from sickness benefits, relying on his son's income from one or two shifts a week on a zero hours contract, while he waits since June for his benefits appeal, which drove him to attempted suicide. 

The fact teachers' real pay has fallen by 16%, and the EIS union describes teachers' massive workload - working 50-60 hours a week - as having "desperate effects on their health and well-being." 

Heart-breaking human stories are accompanied by chilling statistics. A new LSE Report calculates that since the June 2016 EU referendum and subsequent plunge in the value of Sterling - pushing up prices of items with a high import content, such as food - the average Scottish worker has lost £404 a year in wages. On top of the 10.8% fall in real wages since the banking crisis of 2008. 


Demand Action from the Anti-Tory Parties  


Hell will freeze over before the Tories start looking after the wellbeing of the millions, as opposed to the profits and privileges of the millionaires. So it's right - and urgent - that we demand action from those politicians closest to the ground in Scotland, who also like to define themselves as anti-austerity. 

The SNP helped win its historic landslide by denouncing austerity. That was the key platform of Jeremy Corbyn in his defeat of New Labour leadership candidates, with their record of implementing austerity. Latterly, Richard Leonard tried to echo his opposition to cuts.


We want words made into deeds by Scotland's anti-Tory parties.

That's why the SSP - who since September 2014 have campaigned in the streets and trade unions for an immediate, statutory £10 minimum for all over 16, with equal pay for women - is stepping up pressure on the SNP Holyrood government and Labour and SNP councillors. 

That's why the SSP held a National Day of Action on the Baltic Saturday 18 November,  demanding a guarantee that from April 2018, nobody these governments directly or indirectly employs would be trying to survive on anything less than £10 an hour.

SSP members braved the bitter cold to hold street stalls and street meetings in Glasgow's Partick and Govan; Nairn; Edinburgh; East Kilbride; Paisley; Cumbernauld; Coatbridge and Irvine. 

We met the man who simply stated: "I looked at an old wage slip from 15 years ago, and there's very little difference in my earnings now."

The Richmond Fellowship care worker who was furious at being on £7.50 an hour, unable to afford a holiday, when she has dedicated herself for years to a job she loves, caring for the most vulnerable.

People scrimping and saving simply to pay the rent and buy food. 


Braving the Baltic conditions in Nairn on SSP Day of Action


Demand 'No Cuts' Defiance Budgets


Local authority workers expressed their anxiety at yet more cuts looming in the forthcoming council budgets. Which is why our campaigning demand for councillors to defy austerity, set No Cuts Budgets, with the £10 minimum included, and then fight for the funds to do this, is so timely and important. 

No councillors - whether Labour or SNP - should be prepared to trade wages for jobs, or workers' conditions for public services. Yet that's what they've done for years. And unless the unions, STUC and community campaigns unite in decisive action with socialists, and demand the cash off Westminster and Holyrood, a repeat of the Ice Age of cuts to pay, public services and jobs looms large.

COSLA Cuts Warnings


The council umbrella body, COSLA, has just produced a frightening picture of the choices we face, ahead of the SNP government's draft Budget in December, which in turn sets the spending settlements for Council Budgets.

COSLA reiterates that there's been £1.4billion cuts by councils since 2012, with 30,000 people losing their jobs, and communities priced out of facilities and services by the 13% hike in charges - often the hidden form of austerity. 

The same COSLA document warns that to just stand still - not improve people's lives, but merely hold onto the brutally inadequate provision by councils we have now - the Scottish government needs to allocate an extra £545million to councils for 2018/19 - a 5.7% increase in funding. 

The response of the SNP government so far? "We will continue to treat local government fairly." Continue? Last year's SNP/Scottish Greens Budget slashed another £170m off council funding, adding to successive years of butchery. 



Wield Power of Unions  


We can't rely on the powers of pleading - or resort to prayer - to win the funds which protect jobs, conditions, public services... and also guarantee a £10 minimum as part of a pay compensation package for the 7 years of pay cuts suffered by 500,000 public sector workers. It requires a serious, united fight, wielding the potential power of workers, their unions and their communities.
The Battle for BiFab in Fife and Lewis wasn't won (at least until April) by humble pleas to the employers or government. It was won by brave, united and swift action by the workforce - refusing to leave their jobs; defending the fabrication yards from asset-strippers by union control of the gates; stockpiling resources in preparation for outright occupations - and by telling the authorities they weren't budging. 


Workers' Action Against Austerity 


That's the spirit and method needed to stop the slaughter of services, jobs and pay that has crucified workers and communities alike, as we pay for the bailout of the bankers and billionaires' profits. 

We won't win the modest, increasingly inadequate demand for £10 now - nor replacement of the abomination of zero hours contracts with a guaranteed 16-hour minimum contract for all who want it - without a mighty battle involving street protests, demos and coordinated strike action, putting the politicians and employers on the spot. 


The SSP's street action on 18 November is just the prelude to an orchestrated campaign of explanation and pressure on the Scottish government and councils to put their money where their mouths are. 

The SSP will step up this demand for an immediate £10 in our unions as well as on the streets. 





Sign and Share the Online Petition 


The Online Petition I recently launched on behalf of the SSP is targeting demands for action on Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and the heads of COSLA, but also Richard Leonard, who we correctly anticipated would become the new Scottish Labour leader. 

Richard's victory speech referred to offering 'hope' to the Scottish people. Here's his chance: we are calling on him to instruct his Labour Party councillors to break the habits of several decades and refuse to vote for a single penny in cuts, and instead inspire public sector AND private sector workers by implementing a £10 Living Wage immediately - not in 2020, as Labour has so far pledged, which will be severely devalued by inflation by then. 


Photo by Craig Maclean

Volunteer to Help Win £10 Now! 


We have no intention of making this campaign a one-day wonder. 

We need more street campaigning; more propositions for this policy and for action in the public sector unions; more volunteers to do all this... and we need thousands of signatures on our Online Petition. 

Please get in touch to play your part in this battle to set the pace in the public sector, transform the lives of tens of thousands of workers - and vastly boost the battle for an immediate, legally-enforced £10 minimum, rising with inflation, for all workers across the land. 

SIGN PETITION HERE

Friday, 10 November 2017

EQUAL PAY DAY - MIND THE GAP!

Women work for nothing from 10 November to 31 December this year!!


Today is Equal Pay Day.

In my book Break the Chains, I wrote:

"The Fawcett Society's August 2014 research claimed that by 2013 shortfall [the gender pay gap -RV] had risen again for the first time in five years, to a staggering 19.1%. That's the equivalent of a workplace where full-time male workers are paid all year round, but female workers work for free from about 22 October!"

Since that was published, the Fawcett Society calculates the annual date equivalent to when women cease to be paid for the rest of the calendar year, due to the gender gap in pay.
This year it is today, 10th November - which has remained unchanged since 2015. It's due to their calculation that for every £1 men earn, women get just 86p.

So alongside fighting for an immediate, legally enforced £10-an-hour minimum wage for all from the age of 16, I and the SSP are proud to persistently demand equal pay for women. And to unite with the women battling for equality, as for example described in this blog I wrote recently - Women Workers Demand Equality.



Wednesday, 8 November 2017

1917 RUSSIAN REVOLUTION: WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN




This week is the centenary of the October 1917 Russian Revolution.

The 100th anniversary of the event I and many others regard as the greatest act of human liberation so far witnessed. When the 1,000 years of Tsarist dictatorship was overthrown - a semi-feudal regime that left over 70% of the Russian people illiterate; over 80% scraping out a miserable existence on tiny strips of land; soldiers starving and slaughtered to uphold the interests and imperialist ambitions of the monarchy, landowners and western capitalists; women queuing endlessly in the freezing cold for bread rations slashed to famine levels; and national minorities mercilessly persecuted.

The 100th anniversary of this momentous, multi-millioned human drama has been mostly ignored by the West's media - or distorted.
I watched that vile reactionary, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, spew out on TV the well-worn lie that the October Revolution was a putsch, a coup, orchestrated by German militarism. Carried out by German agents like Lenin; by a violent, isolated, unrepresentative Bolshevik conspiracy that led to disaster.

And of course for many decades, the same capitalist politicians, professors and press poured out the scaremongering lie that the subsequent Stalinist tyranny in Russia was the fate awaiting all of us if there was ever a socialist society established here, or anywhere else.

The gangster capitalist, Vladimir Putin - head of the capitalist system that was restored in Russia 25 years ago - is equally keen to bury the truth about what the 1917 Bolshevik-led socialist revolution actually involved.
He especially wants nobody knowing anything about the dramatic gains ushered in, during the first years of the new socialist government, for the millions of workers and peasants who took power in 1917. People comparing those advances would be all the more likely to challenge the tyranny and chaos that capitalism has now imposed on the land of Red October 1917.

1917: Walls Come Tumbling Down

So what did happen in 1917? What's the truth about the Russian revolution? Was the Bolshevik government an example we can learn from in the struggle against the police tyrannies, obscene inequality and exploitation that capitalism means in the 21st century - as underlined by the Paradise Papers revelations? How did Stalinism come about, and how does it differ from the socialist democracy many of us have spent a lifetime fighting for?

I've just written a 72-page book addressing these and other key questions. It tries to introduce today's generations to issues, theories, events and struggles largely - and quite deliberately - hidden from our eyes.
It's hopefully a good introduction to the Russian Revolution, its relevance today, and the subsequent rise of Stalinism. It aspires to be a source of discussion, debate and clarification for workers and socialists.
Anyone seeking a socialist future cannot dodge these issues, and we can learn an awful lot from the one fully successful socialist revolution so far in history.

I'd encourage you to order a copy of my book(let), 1917:Walls Come Tumbling Down. 

Get your own copy; consider getting a copy for an interested friend; maybe ask your union branch to order a few to encourage discussion around the issues it raises; likewise in colleges or school Modern Studies classes.
The size of the book, and the price - £4.99, or £5.99 if posted out - should both help to make it accessible. You can order it by clicking on the link here - or by contacting me through Messenger on my Facebook page.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

WOMEN WORKERS DEMAND EQUALITY




Women workers are battling for equality at work on several fronts.

A succession of protest demos have been staged by members of Unison and GMB unions at Glasgow city council, demanding immediate action on Pay Justice by the new SNP council. 

Women working for the council and its arms-length offshoots (ALEOs) have fought for equal pay for equal work for the past 12 years. They are demanding an end to the outrageous pay gap, mostly derived from some occupations being treated as 'women's work' - such as homecare, cleaning, administration, schools, libraries and catering. With this gendered branding comes lower grades and lower pay.

Decade of Delay 

A Single Status Agreement was signed between Scottish councils and unions about 11 years ago, supposedly guaranteeing an end to this discrimination, by unifying grades for equal skills, regardless of gender.
Disgracefully, over a decade of union struggle has been required to force councils to implement this. 

Many workers due compensation have since died, or moved out of jobs with the council, as the lawyers rake in fees from legal wrangling by councils. 

There are still over 27,000 Scottish council workers with unresolved claims for equal pay, and compensation for historic daylight robbery. The outstanding bill is estimated to be £750million. 90% of the workers involved are women.
Glasgow city council makes up a huge share of this pay gap: 11,000 workers still owed a total of about £500million! 
The previous Labour council scandalously dragged its feet, dodged paying up, using countless legal delaying tactics. 

Labour - now SNP - Delaying Tactics

In last May's council elections, the SNP made a big play of their promises to immediately implement equal pay, and won considerable voters' support through this. 

The Unison and GMB demos have been demanding 'No Delay, Equal Pay', now the SNP have been in charge a clear six months. 

Alarmingly, after their manifesto promises to the contrary, the SNP council has still not taken any concrete steps to speed up payment of this scandalous debt to workers. In fact, the one and only step so far by the SNP administration has been to seek 'leave to appeal' against the Supreme Court ruling in favour of equal pay settlements, in the case pursued by Unison on behalf of their 6,000 members amongst the 11,000 city council and ALEOs staff involved. Different political party, more delaying tactics!

Some of the key messages from the women leading the lobbies of the council recently are that equal pay should mean equalizing upwards, not downwards - raising the pay of women-dominated jobs, not cutting the pay of male-dominated sectors. 

Likewise, that equal pay should not be funded out of job losses or cuts to services - including to the (often vulnerable) clients many of them provide lifeline services to. 

Demand No Cuts Budgets 

This raises the issue consistently fought for by the SSP: the demand that both the Scottish government and all 32 local councils should refuse to pass on funding cuts issued by Westminster or Holyrood. To instead set No Cuts Budgets and join workers and communities in a massive campaign to win back some of the £billions stolen off Scotland and local communities by successive central governments, to fund equal pay, expanded services, and job security. 


March of the Mummies

Meantime, on Halloween, a set of women workers used a humorous means to deliver a deadly serious message. The March of the Mummies, in several UK cities including Glasgow, saw women marching in bloody bandages like the 'walking dead' version of mummies, demanding an end to the discrimination and mistreatment at work suffered by pregnant women and new mothers. 

The 2015 Report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission discovered one in nine new mothers said they had been forced out of their job due to pregnancy; an appalling total of 54,000 a year. 
An astonishing 77% of working mothers reported negative or discriminatory treatment by their employers. 
A full 40% of employers had the gall to admit they would avoid hiring a woman of childbearing age. All this in the 21st century!

Pregnant then Screwed 

The March of the Mummies was organised by campaign group 'Pregnant then Screwed', which helps women tell their stories of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and campaigns for a package of measures currently being pushed as an Early Day Motion at Westminster. 

These demands include extension of the time limit for raising Employment Tribunal discrimination cases from 3 months to at least 6 months. A demand entirely justified by the fact only 1% of women facing such discrimination have pursued Tribunal cases - in part, no doubt, because 80% of women in a survey by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists admitted to having had at least one mental health episode during or immediately after pregnancy.   

The campaigners are also demanding 6 weeks paternity leave for Dads, on 90% salary; a requirement that employers report how many Flexible Working requests were made and how many granted; extension of statutory shared parental pay to the self-employed; and state subsidies for childcare from the age of 6 months, instead of the current 3 years. 

SSP Demand Equality

The SSP has a proud record of demanding and campaigning for equal pay for women; at least 12 months' maternity and one month's paternity leave, on 100% of pay; and a massive investment in free pre-school nurseries and workplace cr├Ęches. 

The trade unions should take up these issues vigorously, and demand changes to the feeble employment laws that guarantee the right to apply for flexible working, but with absolutely no guarantee of getting it, when employers merely have to say 'No' on the flimsiest grounds of 'business needs'. 




Thursday, 12 October 2017

HIGH COURT OF INJUSTICE: stand by your posties!



In a class-ridden fashion that was all too predictable, a High Court judge has granted Royal Mail bosses an interim injunction against the Communication Workers' Union strike action going ahead next week (19-21 October).

The mass democracy of a 9:1 majority for strike action amongst 110,000 CWU members has been trampled underfoot by an unelected judge on behalf of the unelected Royal Mail Group bosses.


After the resounding Yes vote was won - despite all the threats and obstruction thrown up by Royal Mail bosses - they tried to get a legal crushing of the subsequent action by absurdly claiming the union had not taken sufficient steps to inform its members of the planned strikes. Only those posties on a trip to Mars, with all communication channels to ground control cut off, could have been unaware of the planned action! 
These scared, desperate, but brutal bosses had to drop that crude nonsense, but then pursued the line of seeking an interim injunction on grounds of financial damage to the company. 

Court of Class Injustice

In stark confirmation of the role of the judicial arm of the state in the struggle between workers and big business employers, the judge had to decide who would suffer the greater financial damage, depending on whether he allowed the democratically decided industrial action to go ahead, or not. So his decision was to financially protect the Royal Mail bosses, at the expense of stalling the fightback by posties. At the expense of democracy. He instructed the CWU to suspend all industrial action "until external mediation had been concluded". 

The Issues Remain

But in reality this judicial setback only defers rather than defeats the struggle by Royal Mail workers. 
The issues remain. 
Nothing has been solved in the struggle to defend workers' pensions from a cut of up to 30%. 
Nothing has been conceded on the CWU's demands for a decent wage on retirement; or for a 35-hour working week without loss of pay, inclusive of breaks, to protect jobs, reduce drudgery and harness the advantages of new technology; or for defence of the right of union reps to properly function; or to withdraw plans for a two-tier workforce, with lower pay for new starters. 


The 9:1 Ballot Remains 

The ballot result remains.
As CWU General secretary Dave Ward declared outside the High Court of (In-)Justice:

"We walked into the Court with a 90% Yes vote, and we walked out still with a 90% Yes vote. This ballot is still live and kicking." 

The ruling merely delays the likelihood of strike action by 7 weeks, because the judge issued that as a deadline for the warring sides to reach an agreement through 'external mediation'.
This is an entirely bogus proposal; a fig leaf for a naked, class-driven offensive against workers and their ability to defend both their own conditions and the public services they provide. 
Negotiations on these issues have been dragged out by Royal Mail for 18 months already - including external mediation! 
Workers and their union reached the end of their collective tether, and only then balloted for strike action to force the out-of-touch bosses to sit up and listen. 

Strike Before Christmas 

As the CWU's Dave Ward declared, unless mediation leads to an acceptable offer in defence of workers and the great public service they provide, Royal Mail bosses are still staring down the barrel of a gun. The company either protects workers' pensions, pay, jobs, union rights and the service to the public, or they'll still encounter strikes before the peak Christmas period. 

And that's a key detail: the union is absolutely right to declare they will not allow the Royal Mail Board to string out mediation beyond the timescale specified by the High Court. 
The danger is that the employers want to stretch out 'external mediation' until the enhanced impact of a strike in December is dead and gone. They must not succeed. Either they concede to the demands of a workforce they are blatantly out of touch with during the mediation,  or they should be forced into doing so by decisive strike action before Christmas. 

Stand by Your Posties 

The war to defend Royal Mail services and it's workers is far from over. The use of the High Courts to tramp workers' democratic decisions into the dirt will only harden the resolve of these 110,000 men and women - and the determination of fellow trade unionists and socialists to build solidarity with them. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

HELP ELECT A SOCIALIST TO THE USDAW NEC

I know this isn't in keeping with the blogs I normally write, but in case some of you are either members of an USDAW union branch in Scotland - or you know somebody who is - I'm posting this letter appealing for branch nominations for the Usdaw National Executive Council elections.



Several Usdaw activists asked me to stand for one of the two positions on the NEC elected by Usdaw's 45,000 members. I eventually made my mind up and agreed to be a candidate!

I want to bring decades of experience as a trade union activist, campaigner and socialist to the deliberations of my union's NEC. Hopefully, the letter briefly explains some of my priority policies and aims.

Retail and related jobs are polluted by poverty pay and job insecurity.

I want to help push our union into a far more urgent approach to actively implementing policies agreed at its own conferences (ADMs - Annual Delegate Meetings), on issues like an IMMEDIATE £10 minimum wage... before inflation makes this a redundant demand!

I want to pursue policies like a guaranteed minimum 16-hour contract for all workers who want it, instead of the abomination of zero hours contracts.

And I want to combine with others to make our union more transparently democratic, with far greater membership control.

I have energetically built up the union membership during my 10 years in Usdaw, and spoken out for what I believe in at conferences of the union - both Scottish and UK-wide.

Please consider what you can do to help me get nominations at Usdaw branches.
Nominations started last week, and the deadline for receipt of all branch nominations at the Usdaw HQ is 13th November. Get in touch if your Usdaw branch needs more of my details for the nomination procedures.

Apologies to those NOT in Usdaw who read this - but have a think if you know anyone in the union who you can share this with, and encourage them to support a socialist candidate for the Usdaw NEC.