Unite Union Press Release:
Migrant domestic workers will be gathering at Old Palace Yard, Westminster this Sunday (15 June) to demonstrate against the government’s changes to the domestic workers visa.
Despite strong opposition from many individuals, organisations, charities and unions, the government, in April 2012, abolished the rights of domestic workers to change employer once they are in the UK.
Under the Tied Domestic Worker visa, implemented by this government, domestic workers entering the UK have become modern slaves.
They are ‘tied’ to the one employer (who brings them here) making them much more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and preventing enforcement of the employment rights they are supposed to be entitled to.
This effectively traps them with that employer, and they will have to return either to their country or that of their employer within six months.
There is a real danger that domestic workers are now driven underground as many employers enslave, abuse and exploit them more because the current system allows them to do so.
Two years on, thousands of migrant domestic workers have found themselves in this situation of being ‘tied’ to their employer, with no redress if they are abused and exploited and living with the added fear of deportation if they speak out.
These workers, some of the most vulnerable workers in our society, are enraged that after decades of campaigning to get the same rights and privileges we all enjoy, this government demolished their achievement by replacing Overseas Domestic Worker visa with the Tied Domestic Worker visa.
Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “It had taken many years of campaigning to get some of the most vulnerable workers in our society the same rights and privileges that everyone should be able to count on, but this government has demolished these vital achievements.
“Justice for migrant domestic workers cannot be swept under the carpet by this government. They have reintroduced modern day slavery and Unite and others are absolutely committed to ending it and reinstating the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa.”
Marissa Begonia, Justice 4 Domestic Workers chair, said: “The trauma of repetitive abuse of migrant domestic workers on the Tied Domestic Worker visa with no access to justice is inhuman. For this government to facilitate and tolerate slavery in the UK is an unforgivable crime.
“This government must end the abuse, exploitation and slavery of the already vulnerable migrant domestic workers. It’s time to restore domestic workers’ rights.”
Kate Roberts, Kalayaan community advocate, said: “Given this government’s stated commitment to combating slavery in the UK we are dismayed at its rejection of the important recommendations of the Joint Committee for the draft Modern Slavery Bill to reinstate the original visa and corresponding rights.
“Two years since domestic workers were tied to their employers the evidence is clear; that these workers are far more likely to be abused and enslaved than those who are not tied and are effectively imprisoned in these conditions by the current immigration rules.
“With this knowledge it is unforgivable to maintain the tied visa which must be replaced urgently with the original Overseas Domestic Worker visa, a system proven to work well and to allow migrant domestic workers a chance for justice.”
> And who’d like to bet against this government attempting to extend these kind of conditions to the rest of the workforce at some stage ?
Source – Welfare News Service, 13 June 2013
Women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities may be put off taking part in Britain’s political system because of abuse or threats of physical attacks, a North East MP has warned.
Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington & Sunderland West and the Shadow Equalities Minister, said attempts to make councils and Parliament more representative were being undermined by fears that candidates would face discrimination.
And she said that every party had to act to stamp out intimidation and prejudice in politics.
She was speaking as the Commons debated the findings of an inquiry which found candidates standing for election need protection from racist, Islamaphobic and anti-semitic attempts to smear them.
The findings were published by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Electoral Conduct.
Jeremy Beecham, who led Newcastle City Council for 17 years and is now a Labour peer, revealed that he had faced anti-semitic campaigning from political opponents when he first stood as a councillor in the city in 1967.
The inquiry also highlighted the case of Parmjit Dhanda, a former Labour MP, whose children found a severed pig’s head outside his house after his election defeat in 2010.
Gay rights group Stonewall highlighted a number of incidents of homophobic behaviour by candidates from many parties including an example from 2007 in which a Labour party council candidate with parliamentary ambitions, Miranda Grell, labelled her opponent a paedophile.
Ms Grell was convicted in 2007 by magistrates in Waltham Forest of two counts of making false statements about another candidate.
Mrs Hodgson told MPS: “None of us goes into politics without the fear of attack, and none of us is immune from attack on some level; but we should always expect any attacks on us to be based on choices or decisions that we have made, the things we have said, the way we have voted, or what we have done.”
But she warned: “I am sure that for many candidates the threat of their skin colour, background or faith – not to mention their children’s or relatives’- being turned into smears or innuendo or leading to harassment or abuse such as we have heard about today is a real consideration. I worry that the fear I have described will mean that many excellent candidates never seek their local party’s nomination or get the chance to be elected.”
The number of MPs in the House of Commons from ethnic minority backgrounds has increased. After the 2010 General Election there were 27 minority ethnic MPs, 12 more than in the previous Parliament.
It means 4.2% of MPs are from an an ethnic minority compared to 17.9% of the UK population as a whole.
The 2010 census of local councillors in England, carried out by the Local Government Association, showed that 4% came from an ethnic minority background, compared to 20% of the English population as a whole.
Equalities Minister Helen Grant said: “The inquiry on electoral conduct was thorough and detailed and made recommendations to a number of bodies, including the Electoral Commission, the police and political parties. Building its findings into current work and guidance and working with the right organisations is the best way to ensure that political life becomes a battle of ideas, not of race hate and discrimination.”
Source – Newcastle Journal,
Children are going to school hungry, cold and wearing dirty clothes because their parents are struggling for money, a teachers union has warned.
Members of the NASUWT, which represents thousands of teachers across the North-East and North Yorkshire, have reported that some children are turning up for lessons with mouldy food in their lunchboxes and holes in their uniforms.
A survey of almost 4,000 NASUWT members found that many teachers are giving pupils money out of their own pocket, providing food and lending clothes to help them out.
The warnings come days after foodbanks across the region reported a 463 per cent increase in the number of people using the services.
The Trussell Trust reported that 18,592 adults and children in County Durham received three days’ emergency food relief from its foodbanks in 2013-14. In total, 59,000 people accessed foodbank support in the North–East.
The president of the NASUWT, Geoff Branner, said that schools alone cannot solve the problems of poverty, poor housing, neglect and abuse.
In a speech at NASUWT’s annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Branner said: “Public education is not just about developing an individual’s capacity to earn, it has a moral objective as well – to tackle inequality.
But he added: “Whether education alone can overcome the malign effects of poverty, poor housing, neglect and abuse in all its forms is questionable.”
The poll of NASUWT teachers revealed stories of pupils hugging radiators to keep warm and getting upset when they lose basic items such as pencils and rubbers because they are fearful of the cost of replacing them.
The union said it had commissioned the survey in response to concerns raised by teachers about the long-term impact of Government economic policies on children and young people.
The findings show that almost three quarters – 74 per cent – of teachers have seen pupils coming to school hungry, with 80 per cent saying that youngsters had been lacking in energy and concentration because they were eating poorly.
The poll also revealed that 27 per cent of teachers said they had experience of students losing their homes due to financial problems.
One NASUWT member said: “I have never known such abject poverty as my pupils are suffering at the moment.
“Many are affected by the cold – they cannot complete any work at home as a result of lack of heat, warmth, equipment, and we are seeing more pupils being told by their parents to stay behind in school at night in order to make sure they can do their homework with light and warmth.”
Another said they had seen “children practically hugging radiators, children eating at friend’s houses because they don’t have food at home. Mouldy food in packed lunch boxes”.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The lives of children and young people are being degraded by poverty and homelessness.
“Teachers and other public service workers are struggling to pick up the pieces caused by this Coalition’s economic and social policies.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Government was taking decisive action to help disadvantaged pupils.
She said: “Around 1.3m children currently receive a free, nutritious meal at school. We are extending this to all five to seven-year-olds in state maintained schools from September and allocating more than £1m to help schools establish more breakfast clubs.
“We have invested in the Pupil Premium, raising it from £625m in 2011-12 to £2.5bn in 2014-15.
“This is giving schools the additional resources they need to raise disadvantaged pupils attainment, and give them a better start in life.”
Source – Northern Echo 19 April 2014
An MP has said she’s determined to stand up to internet trolls after she received a barrage of abuse online.
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, became a target for cyber bullies after she spoke out on theissue of children’s toys.
She hit headlines earlier this month when she led a debate in parliament on gender-specific toys.
Chi pointed out that it was “illegal to advertise a job as for men only but apparently fine to advertise a toy as for boys only. Why should girls be brought up in an all-pink environment? It does not reflect the real world.”
She also condemned toy shops that have a pink aisle for what they see as girls’ toys and a blue aisle for boys’ toys.
But, ever since Chi spoke out, she has been on the receiving end of a stream of abuse on social networking site Twitter.
Chi said: “I’ve had quite a bit of intense abuse, the whole range right up to, although thankfully not including, death threats.
“Everything from aggressive sexual swearing to bizarrely being told that I’m both a publicity seeker and that no-one is interested in the issue.
“I’ve been told I’m stupid, lazy and had the strongest swear words directed at me.”
But she vowed: “I’m determined it’s not going to stop me.”
In her speech to parliament, Chi claimed that directing girls towards pink toys featuring princesses and domestic tasks, while boys are encouraged to play with construction toys and characters who have adventures, limits their horizons and is bad for the economy.
She pointed to a page from a 1970s Argos catalogue that featured toys such as a baby buggy or shop till in variety of colours and compared it to the current catalogue, which has the same toys but only in pink.
She said: “I’m not calling for legislation.
“There is a fear that you are accused of wanting a nanny state but we are just fighting for more choice so children can play with what they want.
“It causes a lot of distress among parents to see their girls forced down the route of being pink puppets.
“I’ve had a lot of parents contact me since the debate too.”
Fellow Labour MP Stella Casey received rape and death threats after she called for more women to be featured on bank notes.
And Isabella Sorley from Newcastle and John Nimmo from South Shields were jailed after they sent messages to campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.
Another alleged troll is due to face court this month.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 24 Feb 2014