Volunteers say their anti-unemployment service will be back up and running within days after being offered a new home by the GMB union.
The Newcastle and Gateshead Centre Against Unemployment, which for more than 35 years had provided advice on benefits and jobs to thousands of people on Tyneside, closed at the end of November last year amid a bitter row with its Cloth Market “landlords.”
But now the organisation hopes to bounce back with a six month stay at the GMB’s Mosely Street offices – and efforts continue to find it a more permanent home.
Greedy private landlords are raking in billions of pounds of public money in housing benefits payments, new research shows.
Freedom of Information Requests by the GMB union reveal that private landlords received a staggering £9,296 billion in housing benefit in 2013/14.
GMB says this abuse of Britain’s welfare system has been allowed to go on for far too long. Millionaire landlords are exploiting low-income families in need of housing and who could otherwise be left homeless.
There are 4.2 million households living in private rented accommodation in Britain. 1.59 million of these (38%) pay part or all of their rent using housing benefit.
More people now rent privately than from councils and housing associations. The switch away from cheaper social housing to the more expensive private sector has resulted in an increase in private tenants claiming housing benefit.
The Conservatives have pledged to open up social housing to buy-to-let private landlords. This could reduce an already dwindling social housing stock and further increase the housing benefit bill.
GMB has named and shamed twenty private landlords abusing Britain’s welfare system. These include:
- Private landlord Mr Mohammed Taj was paid £3,219,858 of taxpayer’s money direct as housing benefits by Watford in 2013/14.
- Investing Solutions Ltd was paid £2,239,915 by Merton, Brent, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Wandsworth councils.
- Thorney Bay Park Ltd was paid £1,924,226 by Castle Point council in 2013/14.
- Mr Alastair Kerr was paid £1,616,951 by Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hounslow in 2013/14.
Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said:
“This research lifts the lid on the mainly secret payments to landlords who are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system.
“We see taxpayers cash subsidising buy-to-let empires with £9.2 billion of hard earned taxpayer’s cash paid into private landlords’ bank accounts – much of it ending up in tax havens.
“The abuse of housing benefit by private landlords has gone on for too long.
“Millionaires take sackloads of cash for exploiting those in housing need or stuck on low pay. It’s incredible that the Tories want to extend this billions pound rip off.
“It’s time to close the offshore tax dodgers charter, cap rents and use the billions being sucked up by property speculator landlords to build affordable homes for people again.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 28 Apr 2015
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Redcar to voice concerns over jobs at a major new power plant.
Representatives from the Unite, GMB and UCATT unions protested in Redcar town centre.
It followed previous protests at the Wilton International Site near Redcar over the rate of pay given to foreign workers at the new £250m Sita facility.
Concerns have also been raised that the company was recruiting predominantly from overseas and was not adhering to nationally agreed terms and conditions.
Michael Blench, an officer for the GMB, said:
“The main reason for today is to keep up the pressure on Sita and Sembcorp, who are the landlords of the site.”
He added: “The ideal outcome from my point of view is that the site will be finished with the workforce that is there and that what we are doing sends a message.
“This situation hasn’t happened in the way we would have liked but the important thing is that if Sita ever came back to this area, they know our position from the start.
“This is a message for the future.”
Steve Cason, North-east regional officer for construction at Unite, added: “All we want to see is equality and fairness across the board.”
But Sita has denied claims made by the protesters and says it is paying the correct, nationally agreed rates to its employees.
A spokesman for the company said:
“Allegations continue to be made about the employment of foreign workers at the Wilton 11 construction site, including claims about low rates of pay and accommodation allowances.
“We continue to refute all of these allegations and there’s no evidence to support any of these claims.”
“Since construction began, a significant proportion of workers on site have been from the local area and we have made significant efforts to try and promote job opportunities to local workers. This included the organisation of a jobs fair at Redcar and Cleveland College on Thursday 19 February, to which 774 people attended.
“However, it is still necessary for a proportion of workers on site to be from wider European Union member states and it would be difficult to deliver a project of this nature without them.
“Energy-from-waste facilities require a great deal of specialist equipment which has had to be sourced from within the wider European Union. These elements are of a bespoke and sophisticated nature, meaning that some of our suppliers choose to use their own specialist and experienced workforce when they are fitted.
“All workers on site, regardless of their nationality, are employed because of their individual skills and abilities. They have a legal entitlement to work in the UK and contribute to the local economy while they are here, furthermore there is no substance to allegations that they are employed on site as a means of sourcing cheap labour.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Apr 2015
A trade union has accused police of carrying out a “witch hunt” in connection with a long-running dispute over the building of a Teesside power plant.
The GMB union claims its members were “targeted for questioning” and a member was visited by police at their home.
The criticism of Cleveland Police’s actions is linked to the union’s ongoing row with Sita Sembcorp over the levels of foreign workers used to build a £250m energy plant at Wilton.
The GMB union is seeking to know how the force learned the names and private mobile telephone numbers of union members.
It has also asked why a member was visited by officers at their home last Sunday to be questioned about a protest held at the Wilton industrial site on Monday.
Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer, said:
“The Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger needs to ask the police to answer some basic questions on this activity by the Cleveland Police on this protest over discrimination by Sita SembCorp against Teesside workers.
“We need to know who instigated this witch hunt, why were unemployed construction workers targeted for questioning, how the police got their names and private mobile telephone numbers and home addresses.
“Above all we need to know why Cleveland Police devote resources to targeting peaceful trade union protest rather than fighting criminal activity in the area.”
In response, Chief Superintendent Adrian Roberts of Cleveland Police said:
“Officers were made aware of a number of posts on an open social media profile, which discussed protests planned at the Wilton site on the morning of Monday, February 23, and that this would potentially involve large numbers of protesters congregating at the entry and exit gates to the site.
“Police identified that the protest would coincide with rush hour and due to existing road works on the A174, that there would be substantial congestion.
“Public safety is paramount and with a site of this nature, there was an absolute need to ensure the ability of emergency service vehicles to enter and leave the site in the event of an emergency.
“In line with national best practice, officers from Cleveland Police openly sought to identify and engage with the organisers in advance, to explain the role of the force and open a dialogue to ensure the protest went ahead peacefully, lawfully and safely.
“This involved contact with one of the trade unions who were known to be connected to the dispute. They indicated that they were aware of the individual who appeared from social media to be organising the protest but that the protest had nothing to do with them.
“In order to establish a working dialogue with protesters, officers made direct contact with an individual via telephone, but having generated no response, the person was visited at his home address by an officer.
“There was no suggestion whatsoever that the right to protest would be improperly impeded, however, the individual was unforthcoming. To be clear the police had no knowledge of any current affiliation between this individual and the GMB trades union.
“As in all situations of this type, Cleveland Police’s role was to objectively and impartially balance the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful protest with the rights of affected businesses and members of the public to go about their lawful activities.
“Cleveland Police would very much welcome the engagement of GMB or any other trades union involved in the planning of any future protests, and would invite contact.”
Also responding to the comments, Cleveland Police and crime commissioner, Barry Coppinger said:
“I have not received any correspondence or complaint from the GMB or any other individual or organisation with regard to the matters reported in the local media.
“If I do receive such correspondence I will act appropriately.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 26 Feb 2015
More businesses in the North-East have been ‘named and shamed’ by the Government for not paying the national minimum wage.
The businesses were revealed by Business Minister Jo Swinson and included employers not complying with minimum wage rules and having arrears of more than £100 owing to staff.
Those named and who are based in the region were:
- Mrs Karen Aitken, trading as Angel Hair Design, of Gainford, Darlington, neglecting to pay £703.33 to a worker
- Mrs Deborah Adcock, trading as LJ Beauty and Hair, of Seaham, neglecting to pay £463.60 to a worker
- Inn2inns Ltd, of Hemlington, Middlesbrough, neglecting to pay £323.10 to two workers
- Mr Assad Madani, trading as Dona Papa Pizza, in Chester-le-Street, neglecting to pay £101.64 to a worker
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which published the 70 strong list, said each case had been “thoroughly investigated” by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Ms Swinson said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal, immoral and completely unacceptable.
“Naming and shaming gives a clear warning to employers who ignore the rules that they will face reputational consequences as well as financial penalties of up to £20,000 if they don’t pay the minimum wage.”
The GMB union said there were still far too few “wage dodging employers” being brought to justice and “bucket loads of evidence” that big firms in particular could afford to pay more.
The Government said it was increasing HMRC’s enforcement budget by a further £3m a year in a bid to recover hundreds of thousands of pounds owed to workers.
The GMB also said a wage offenders register should be kept by Company House with those on it deemed unfit to hold further directorships.
The current national minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is £6.50 an hour, although the Low Pay Commission yesterday recommended to ministers it increases by 20p to £6.70 an hour.
COMPANIES NATIONALLY PAYING LESS THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE
- East Midlands Crossroads – Caring for Carers, Nottingham, neglected to pay £37,592.56 to 184 workers.
- Delcom Systems Ltd, Salisbury neglected to pay £11,731.52 to a worker.
- S Hanns LLP, Chatham neglected to pay £8,448.84 to a worker.
- The Apostolic Church trading as James Kane Nursery, London, neglected to pay £8,347.71 to 2 workers.
- Young Friends Nursery Ltd, Hove, neglected to pay £6,789.71 to a worker.
- Station Garage (Little Weighton) Ltd, Little Weighton neglected to pay £5,440.77 to 2 workers.
- KRCS (Digital Solutions) Ltd, Nottingham, neglected to pay £5,161.85 to 5 workers.
- Mrs Shirley Elvin trading as Seaton Garage & Engineering Co, Hull, neglected to pay £4,840.31 to a worker.
- Pontcanna Hair Studio Ltd, Cardiff, neglected to pay £4,784.34 to a worker.
- Carol Ann Daker trading as Swan Hill House Residential Home, Shropshire, neglected to pay £4,395.78 to 27 workers.
- Hobby Horse Ltd, Plymouth, neglected to pay £4,049.31 to a worker.
- Fylde Coast Pizza Ltd trading as Papa Johns, Blackpool, neglected to pay £3,949.62 to 14 workers.
- Manleys Ltd, Belfast, neglected to pay £3,797.83 to 3 workers.
- J B Howard and Son Ltd, Leyland, neglected to pay £3,469.96 to 7 workers.
- Mr L Tolman & Mr S Blanchard trading as Mardi Gras Hotel, Blackpool, neglected to pay £3,206.76 to 3 workers.
- Stafforce Personnel Ltd, Rotherham, neglected to pay £3,044.79 to 63 workers.
- Best Start Ltd trading as Tiny Treasures Day Care Nursery, Birmingham, neglected to pay £2,928.95 to two workers.
- Maybury Automotive Ltd, Woking, neglected to pay £2,670.88 to 2 workers.
- C&R Tyres Ltd, Kelso, neglected to pay £2,261.60 to 3 workers.
- SSE PLC, Perth neglected to pay £2,233.95 to 5 workers.
- Encore Envelopes Ltd, Washington, neglected to pay £2,060.09 to a worker.
- SmileyWorld Ltd, London, neglected to pay £1,729.00 to a worker.
- Mancroft Ltd, Leeds, neglected to pay £1,172.97 to 3 workers.
- Kevin & Bernadette Farrell trading as Derrygonnelly Autos, Enniskillen, neglected to pay £1,690.35 to a worker.
- Delves Food & Wine Stop Ltd trading as Loco, Walsall, neglected to pay £1,152.48 to a worker.
- Webe (Chelmsford) Ltd, Chelmsford, neglected to pay £1,521.98 to 4 workers.
- Gregson Lane Garage Ltd, Preston, neglected to pay £1,431.57 to 2 workers.
- Ms Julie Ann Wright trading as The Worx, Portadown, neglected to pay £1,110.60 to a worker.
- Mr S Partridge & Ms M Shead trading as Cobblers Fine Sandwiches & Pastries, Wakefield, neglected to pay £1,003.83 to a worker.
- Mr Phillip Campbell & Mrs Lorraine Campbell trading as Supervalu Kells, Ballymena, neglected to pay £905.86 to 2 workers.
- Mr C Pask trading as Pask Hair & Beauty, Derby, neglected to pay £900.00 to 2 workers.
- J&G Salon Ltd trading as Jealousi & Garlands, Tamworth, neglected to pay £881.28 to a worker.
- Faster Fit Tyres Ltd, Scunthorpe, neglected to pay £719.30 to a worker.
- Mrs Karen Aitken trading as Angel Hair Design, Darlington, neglected to pay £703.33 to a worker.
- Clearshot Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £684.94 to a worker.
- Everest Express Ltd, Lincoln, neglected to pay £657.03 to a worker.
- Leisure Emporium Ltd trading as Brown’s Cafe Bar & Bistro, Nottingham, neglected to pay £643.86 to a worker.
- Mrs S Walker trading as Alleyways Fish & Chips, Scarborough, neglected to pay £601.59 to a worker.
- Gary & Toni Valentine trading as The Harbour Inn, Seaton, neglected to pay £584.42 to a worker.
- Shreeji Barnsley Ltd trading as Coffee Delight, Buxton, neglected to pay £555.70 to a worker.
- Rowe Sparkes Solicitors Ltd, Southsea, neglected to pay £530.96 to a worker.
- Fish Hairdressing Company Ltd, trading as Fish Hairdressing, Maidstone neglected to pay £521.82 to 3 workers.
- Mrs Deborah Adcock trading as LJ Beauty & Hair, Seaham, neglected to pay £463.60 to a worker.
- D&D Dies Ltd, Nottingham, neglected to pay £446.37 to a worker.
- G Joynson, D Joynson and C Joynson trading as Headquarters, Withernsea, neglected to pay £430.07 to a worker.
- Matchesfashion Ltd, London, neglected to pay £375.61 to 2 workers.
- Colin Saich trading as Lindcoly Kennels, Bury St. Edmunds, neglected to pay £338.41 to 9 workers.
- Inn2inns Ltd, Middlesbrough, neglected to pay £323.10 to 2 workers.
- 99p Land Ltd, Swindon, neglected to pay £315.26 to a worker.
- General Tarleton Ltd, Knaresborough, neglected to pay £300.62 to 6 workers.
- Western Computer Group Ltd, Bristol, neglected to pay £287.54 to a worker.
- Matrix Electrical Engineering Ltd, Harlow neglected to pay £286.60 to a worker.
- Honeybees Childcare Ltd, Preston, neglected to pay £276.30 to a worker.
- Mr G J Pearce trading as Sheppards Wood Service Station, Nottingham, neglected to pay £268.56 to a worker.
- The Mirrors Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £262.87 to a worker.
- A1 Techsol Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £233.47 to a worker.
- Mrs J Cole trading as Rayleigh Retreat, Rayleigh £231.73 to a worker.
- Hamlet Homes Properties Ltd, Westcliff-on-Sea neglected to pay £226.40 to a worker.
- Smartmove Property Specialists Ltd, Aldershot, neglected to pay £206.36 to a worker.
- EYFS Ltd trading as Oak Tree Day Nursery, London, neglected to pay £181.41 to a worker.
- Mr & Mrs P Munn trading as Merry Maids of the Weald, Tonbridge, neglected to pay £169.56 to a worker.
- Mr H Singleton trading as Willowbank Builders, Huddersfield, neglected to pay £163.89 to a worker.
- Professional Referral Services Ltd, Wigan, neglected to pay £156.93 to 2 workers.
- Amtec Computer Corporation Ltd, Ferndown, neglected to pay £149.64 to a worker.
- Lychgate Coffee Ltd, Wolverhampton, neglected to pay £124.39 to a worker.
- Finite International Logistics Ltd, Penarth, neglected to pay £119.92 to a worker.
- Drummonds Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £113.58 to a worker.
- Grove Mechanical Services Ltd, Magherafelt, neglected to pay £107.00 to 2 workers.
- Lin Chinese Takeaway Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, neglected to pay £103.00 to a worker.
- Mr Assad Madani trading as Donapapa Pizza, Durham, neglected to pay £101.64 a worker.
The current National Minimum Wage rates are:
Adult rate (21 and over) – £6.50 per hour
18-20 year olds – £5.13 per hour
16-17 year olds – £3.79 per hour
Apprentice rate – £2.73 per hour
The apprentice rate applies to apprentices aged 16-18 and those aged 19 and over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage rate for their age.
Source – Northern Echo, 24 Feb 2014
Almost a quarter of all North-East workers – and nearly a half of part-time staff – are not being paid a living wage, new research shows.
Local authorities in the region are facing fresh calls to pay employees and contractors more after a study by the GMB revealed that 23.4 per cent of North-East jobs paid less than the living wage.
Jobs held by women – 29.9 per cent – and part-time roles – 46.8 per cent – were disproportionately affected, the report based on data from the Office for National Statistics showed.
The living wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK.
In November 2014 the national living wage increased to £7.85 per hour outside London.
GMB is publishing the figures to mark the launch of its 2015 campaign to get every local authority signed up to the living wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far made the move, up from 103 a year ago.
So far only two authorities in the North-East – Newcastle and South Tyneside – have implemented or committed to implement the living wage.
In North Yorkshire, two councils – York and Scarborough – have taken the step.
Billy Coates, GMB regional secretary for the North-East, said:
“No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the living wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors.
“There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.
“The living wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits.”
In the North-East, Hartlepool has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 34.7 per cent, followed by Redcar and Cleveland – 30 per cent – and Middlesbrough and Northumberland, both 26.8 per cent.
At regional level, the East Midlands has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 24.7 per cent.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Feb 2015
The president of a transport union with roots in the Labour Party will contest a North seat for the Greens.
Peter Pinkney, the highest ranking layperson of the RMT Union, will campaign against Ed Miliband’s party in Redcar, claiming: “The party of the left is now the Green Party.”
The union boss also brands Labour “a sort of reddish Conservative Party” and accuses MPs of betraying working people.
The dramatic political move by the ex-TUC General Council member threatens to derail Labour’s campaign in one of its top target seats.
The RMT boss also revealed the union has donated £7,000 to Caroline Lucas, the country’s only Green MP, after the Greens were supportive of plans to renationalise the railways.
Mr Pinkney said:
“Labour is no longer the working class party. They have betrayed us time and time again. They should remember that it was the unions who formed the ‘party of labour’ not deny our links.
“The radical Labour Party of 1945 is long gone. No longer do they champion nationalisation, social housing, the NHS, education etc, they are a sort of reddish Conservative Party.
“In my opinion the party of the left is now the Green Party.”
Labour hit back last night, saying a vote for the Green Party is a vote for the Tories.
> This is the kind of stupid comment that makes me even less likely to vote Labour.
It’d obviously be a vote against Labour, Tories and Lib Dems… because we have no belief in any of them anymore.
The move underlines a deepening fracture in the relationship between Labour and the RMT.
Predecessors to the RMT were among the unions which founded Labour back in 1899. But after 105 years of history the RMT was disaffiliated by Labour in 2004, after the union rejected an ultimatum to stop supporting the Scottish Socialist Party.
Former General Secretary Bob Crow publicly slammed Labour, which was then led by Tony Blair, for a failure to support members.
The deadlock continued until the 2012 Durham Miners’ Gala, when the then Deputy Chairman of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, seemed to offer the RMT an olive branch.
He said: “We need the RMT and the FBU back inside the Labour Party – a house divided cannot stand.”
But Mr Pinkney said three months after Bob Crow died the union voted to sever ties with Labour permanently – and today rules out any future affiliation.
“That is not going to happen,” he said.
“It was a unanimous decision to disaffiliate with Labour and our members would never want to go back.
“If Ed Miliband is [more supportive of unions] then he is doing a strange impression of it. He might say that he is to his paymasters at Unite and GMB, who make hefty donations, but our members will not affiliate to Labour or any other party ever again.
“The press calling him ‘Red Ed’ is a joke. A minimum of 75% of people want to see the railways renationalised. He has never once said he would take the railways back into public hands – not even East Coast.”
Labour has named Redcar in its top 100 seats to win in May and has high hopes for candidate Anna Turley.
Vera Baird lost the seat to Lib Dem Ian Swales in 2010 in what was the highest swing against Labour in the wake of the closure of the Teesside Steelworks.
A poll by Lord Ashcroft in September put Labour on 44%, Lib Dems on 18%, Ukip on 23%, the Tories on 12% and the Greens on just 2%.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The choice in front of Redcar people in May is between a Tory or a Labour government.
“For all those passionate about the green agenda only Labour has the record and plans to deliver a green government.
“A vote for the Green Party is a vote for David Cameron to carry on hitting the people of Teesside.”
> Well, don’t they have a sense of entitlement ? Only us or them can be in power – its our right. Two sides of the same coin.
The Saltburn-born rail union boss, who is calling for capitalism to be replaced, said he was inspired by the election of the left wing Syriza in Greece.
He said: “We need to look after our elderly, build social housing, repeal anti-trade union laws, scrap bedroom tax, renationalise railways and utilities (and any profit reinvested), but most of all we should give the young hope.
“We are definitely handing on worse conditions than we inherited. My generation should hang our heads in shame for letting this happen. Instead of complaining about young being on streets, and using drugs, we should be asking why.
“Redcar and Cleveland has seen a massive decline in my lifetime. We need proper investment, and not just paper over cracks. I believe the Greens are only large party (as surely they can now claim to be) that wants to put things right.
“I am a left wing socialist, but I am pragmatic. I have seen what Syriza have done, and we can learn from that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015
With a general election looming ever larger on the political horizon, the main parties are now unveiling the policies they think will secure them victory.
The economy, immigration and benefits are among the battlegrounds which they will be fighting over in the next four months.
Another is the heavily unionised public sector which has undergone swingeing cuts since the Coalition Government came to office in May 2010 and historically has been the favoured whipping boy of the Tory party.
And so when David Cameron’s party revealed plans to make it harder to call strikes in certain “core” public services if it wins the general election, it came as no surprise.
A policy along those lines, after all, was floated last year by Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster general Francis Maude.
There was also no surprise in its backing by the employers organisations the CBI and the British Chamber of Commerce, or in its universal condemnation by members of the TUC.
Yet, while certain sections of the media need no invitation to attack the public sector, and its day of action last year caused discomfort and annoyance amongst the public – not least the sight of rubbish piling high in places like Newcastle – it is still a risky strategy.
For a start, it opens the Government up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.
After all, the present Coalition Government is made up of the Lib Dems and Tories who between them received 38% of the total number of the UK’s eligible voters – 18m out of 45.5m – and below the 40% threshold it wants to demand of the public sector it is targeting. The Tory share of this was 23%.
In her heyday , Margaret Thatcher won around 30% of the total available vote and, during the present parliament, the Tories voted down a Lib Dem motion to introduced an alternative voting scheme which arguably would have made parliament more representative of the people’s views.
Meanwhile, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny also got his calculator out to further hammer home the point. He said:
“Only 16 out of 650 elected Members of Parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their parliamentary constituency area election in 2010.
“Only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured that level of support. They had no hesitation in forming a government in 2010 without securing 40% support from the electorate.”
Another point is that, particularly in the North East, the public sector which employs many in the region, is not as hated as the Tories might think. So such a policy strategy could be a vote loser here.
Gill Hale, regional secretary of Unison in the North East, said:
“They are the anti-public sector party – you only have to see what they are doing to the NHS and what they have already done to local government.
“Industrial action is taken as a last resort, and when we’ve had to take it we’ve had very good public support. I don’t think it will be a vote winner.”
Meanwhile comments by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he denounced the plans as “brutal” and “ill-conceived”, echo those of Ms Hale.
He said the Conservative proposals were “entirely ideologically-led and a brutal attempt to strangle the basic rights of working people in this country”.
Mr Cable added that a 40% threshold would be “odd”, when MPs do not have to overcome such a high hurdle to be elected.
Under the plans, a strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.
Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a simple majority of those balloted.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC says the Conservatives’ proposals would have “profound implications” for civil liberties.
They would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and curbs on picketing.
The package of measures will feature in the party’s manifesto for May’s general election.
In explaining the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said a planned London bus strike set to take place on Tuesday had only been voted for by 16% of people entitled to take part in the ballot, and called the walk-out “ridiculous”.
“I think before a strike is allowed to go ahead it must havemuch more support from the union members and cannot be called by politicised union leaders,” he said.
But Ms O’Grady said that participation in strike ballots and other types of vote should be improved by introducing online voting, in “safe and secure balloting”.
At the moment, strikes can only be called based on the results of a postal ballot – which “don’t do the job”, Ms O’Grady added.
She said the government “continues to oppose this proposition”, although Mr McLoughlin replied he would be willing to talk “in more detail” about such proposals.
However, his partner in the Coalition Government, Mr Cable, goes further.
He said: “If there is to be trade union reform, it should be to allow electronic voting in ballots which would improve the turnout and legitimacy of polls.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Conservative Party’s proposed changes would have a “chilling” effect, and added the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.
Ministers have repeatedly clashed with trade unions over pay – with a 1% cap on increases in the public sector – as well as changes to pensions and retirement ages.
It was during the day of action last summer when hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a day of strike action across the UK, that Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “time to legislate”.
But Ms Hale added:
“We already have some of the most draconian laws in Europe regarding industrial action. There are so many obstacles we have to get over.”
However, Mr McLoughlin said:
“It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. That causes misery to millions of people; and it costs our economy too.”
He said the changes, which would be introduced in the first session of a Conservative-led Parliament, would “increase the legitimacy” of strike action held by unions.
“It is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hard-working taxpayers who rely on key public services.”
CBI deputy director general Katja Hall commented:
“Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important – but fair – step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.”
However, the TUC has previously said imposing a minimum turnout would leave unions with “about as much power as Oliver Twist”.
Labour criticised those plans as “desperate stuff”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed measures would make it virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike and would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.
He said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.”
But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the eyes of businesses large and small, these proposals have merit, as they would help ensure essential services and the freedom to work in the event of strike action.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Jan 2015
An anti-unemployment centre that has helped thousands of people find work is appealing for funds to repair its city home.
The TUC’s Newcastle and Gateshead Centre Against Unemployment was founded in 1977 and moved to its current home on the Cloth Market in 1986.
But in recent years it has seen funding cut and damage to the building itself following a number of burglaries. “In the last four to five years, the centre has struggled by, continuing to offer advice and education courses,” said founder Alec McFadden.
“Though these days it is run by a small group of volunteers.”
Singer Cat Stevens cut the ribbon and opened the centre after £42,000 was raised in just three months to buy and renovate the building almost three decades ago.
And now supporters are to come together again, at a meeting on December 4, with the hope it can once again see the sort of backing that saw the centre able to pay off its mortgage in just 10 days.
“We had such support from unions and the people of Tyneside that the mortgage on the building was cleared almost straight away,” said Alec.
“Back then, the GMB loaned us around £10,000 and Newcastle City Council gave a grant of £11,000 to restore the building, put in new windows and put new heating in.
“But in the years since then, while helping probably 200,000 to 400,000 people with everything from employment to asbestos exposure and vibration white finger claims, we’ve had some damage.
“Some of that is as a result of a break-in that saw a skylight smashed, with water getting in.
“Realistically, we’re looking at needing an initial £35,000 to restore the building once again, carrying out some roof repairs which are needed.
“And we also need to raise money for staff, as when we started we had six full-time staff, and now there is none.”
The meeting will take place on December 4 at 6pm at the Centre, at 4 Cloth Market.
Anyone interested in becoming involved and helping the centre with fundraising can call 0191 232 4606.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Dec 2014
Thousands of police staff are due to go on strike in a pay dispute after union workers voted to take industrial action.
The result of a ballot by staff, including PCSOs, scenes of crime and police call handlers, was announced on Tuesday and it is believed there are around 2,500 union members in Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland police who could be affected.
A row developed over a pay dispute where staff were offered a 1% increase but union members had backed calls for a 3% pay rise, 85% of Unison members backed a ballot over industrial action and 60% of members have voted to strike if the issue can’t be resolved.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:
“These results send a clear message that after two years of pay freeze and last year’s below inflation pay rise, police staff have had enough and that they are now ready to take industrial action over pay.
“We are calling on the police employers to return to the negotiating table to improve the current pay offer.”
The union’s police sector committee is set to meet to consider the ballot results, and discuss the next move.
Members of the GMB union also voted in favour of strikes, and national officer Sharon Holder said:
“Following the conclusion of the ballots, unions will now meet and announce the planned industrial action.”
Peter Chapman, a Unison representative and lead for police staff in the North East, previously said:
“This is not something that our members want to do.
“It’s not action taken lightly and police staff can never be described as militant.
“It will include PCSOs, people who take finger prints and scenes of crime.
“The police force can’t run without it’s staff and PCSOs are part of our union.
“They are popular, they are effective if there’s a strike by PCSOs it will have a noticeable public impact.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Dec 2014