Workers on Northern Rail have voted to go on strike in a row over jobs and safety.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union backed walkouts by 80% and other forms of industrial action by 90%.
The union said it is in dispute over a series of issues, including the removal of permanent posts and the creation of zero-hour jobs via a contract with a security company, cuts to booking offices and attacks on the role and responsibility of train guards.
The union said Northern Rail, which runs services which links Teesside with stations across the north of England, had also given no commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies beyond the end of its current franchise in February 2016.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT has made every effort to win assurances from Northern Rail over jobs, services and safety. However, the company continues to ride roughshod over our efforts.
“We therefore had no option but to ballot all staff for action to force the company to take these issues seriously and the members have now voted decisively for action. That mandate will now be considered by the union.”
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for the north of England to ‘secede from the UK and join Scotland’.
A total of 5,396 people have signed a petition on Change.org in support of the north of England joining Scotland and ‘regaining control over its own destiny’.
Despite being created a year ago, during the throes of the Scottish independence campaign, the petition attracted a number of signatures following the Conservative Party’s win in last week’s general election.
The petition states:
“The deliberations in Westminster are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the north of England.
“The needs and challenges of the north cannot be understood by the endless parade of old Etonians lining the front benches of the House of Commons.
“We, the people of the north, demand that in the event that Scotland becomes independent, the border between England and the New Scotland be drawn along a line that runs between the River Dee and the mouth of The Humber.”
The border between a ‘new Scotland’ and England would see everywhere north of Sheffield joining the newly-created country.
One supporter added:
“I have more in common with the Scots, than the Etonian-led Southerners who do not care what happens in the North.”
Another pointed out that the petition could bring up the topic of increased Northern representation.
Despite being closed, the petition is still gathering signatures since last Thursday’s vote, partly thanks to the #TakeUsWithYouScotland hashtag on Twitter.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 12 May 2015
Thousands of people across the North were already waiting to downsize before the bedroom tax came into force.
Almost 40,000 households across the North of England were on the waiting list for one-bedroom social homes just as the so-called Bedroom Tax came into force – half the total number of households on the list.
It compares with just 22% of households on the waiting list who were hoping for a social home with more than four bedrooms.
The controversial tax, which has reduced housing benefit available to families deemed to have extra bedrooms, was brought in by the coalition in April 2013.
Opponents warned at the time that people had ‘spare’ bedrooms only because of a lack of available smaller properties following years of councils selling off their social housing stock.
Now, figures reveal a chronic shortage of smaller homes in the North of England leaving thousands of households unable to move out of larger homes.
Meanwhile, they continue to be hit with cuts to their housing benefits despite major opposition to the policy.
Labour MPs across the North have reacted with fury at the figures, which they say highlight their concerns that thousands have been unfairly hit with the “pernicious” and “ideological” bedroom tax thanks to government failure to build enough homes.
Among them, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery slammed the bedroom tax which he claimed was making the most vulnerable pay for the shortage of housing across the region.
“It’s a complete and utter bottleneck where families can not move because the homes are not available. They are then subject to this pernicious tax while they are struggling to make ends meet at this moment in time anyway.
“The government knew the consequences of this. They did understand and they still pushed ahead with this. The election can not come quick enough for these people.”
And Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said the figures dispel a myth about people who are being hit by the bedroom tax.
He said: “This blows the myth out of the water and Labour will be rid of it. It was a pretence and a myth right down the lines about people having too many bedrooms.
“There simply aren’t enough one-bedroom properties for people to move into. It’s nonsense. These are people, human beings in houses they have been living in 40 years. We’re talking about them as if they’re subhumans. It’s a disgrace.”
And Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who was housing and planning minister from 2007 to 2009, said that housing supply had failed to keep up with a changing society that was seeing an aging population with more people moving to one-bedroom properties as partners passed away and children left home.
But he denied that Labour had been part of the problem or that they too had failed to ensure enough homes were built.
He said: “I would strongly disagree with that. We knew in full terms about the changing society. That’s why we needed to build more homes because we understand people are living longer and more people are living in one-person households.
“This government will have been aware of that too, and yet they still impose this grossly unfair tax. They know they don’t have the properties, they knew all along the difficulties this would” cause.”
And he added: “Where are the priorities with this government? It is not with people in the North who are suffering with housing problems. It’s about indifference – they don’t care about communities in Hartlepool.”
But a government spokesperson said the government was committed to building new homes across England and claimed ending the spare room subsidy had been a “necessary” move.
She added: “Nearly 217,000 affordable homes have been delivered in England since April 2010. Our affordable homes programme is on track to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes between 2011 and 2015, with £19.5 billion of public and private funding.
“We have also given the North East of England £13.8m since 2013 to support vulnerable people affected by welfare reforms and there has been a 12% fall in the number of people in the North East affected by the policy, as tenants take action.
“Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, return fairness to the system and make better use of social housing stock.
“Every day the policy saves taxpayers over £1m.”
The North MPs were joined in their criticism by Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, and Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland. All five reiterated Labour’s pledge to abolish the bedroom tax if they win this year’s election.
The party became one step closer to delivering the promise in September 2014, when Labour and the Liberal Democrats came together to voted in favour of a bill brought in by Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George.
If passed, it will mean the bedroom tax will not apply unless a tenant has been offered a different property and has refused to move.
> Hmmm…call me a cynic, but might that not just be circumvented by offering absolute shitholes that no-one wants to live in, then penalizing people for not wanting to live in them.
But prime minister David Cameron has shown no sign of revoking the policy, while a government spokesperson said it was saving the taxpayer £1m every day.
Campaigners have pointed out that rail tickets near the Prime Minister’s own constituency are cheaper that those in the North-East.
Teesside passenger group Coastliners spoke out after David Cameron said the region’s decrepit Pacer trains would be replaced – but fares would have to rise to pay for the new rolling stock.
It was revealed on Friday that the Prime Minister had declared that “those trains are going” when asked about the unpopular Pacers, which run on Northern Rail lines across the North of England.
Mr Cameron rejected his own Government’s suggestion that the 30-year-old carriages could be modernised rather than replaced.
Instead, bidders for the Northern franchise will be asked to draw up plans to replace the trains.
But the Prime Minister said fares must rise to pay for the upgrades when the new contracts start in 2016.
However, research by Coastliners, which represents rail passengers on the Durham coast, suggests it is a myth that North-East fares are cheaper than those elsewhere in the country.
Coastliners’ Peter Walker said:
“Don’t forget that Campaign for Better Transport‘s London-based staff have admitted that we in the North pay as much as if not more than those living further South.”
“Oxford to Tackley, nearly in Mr Cameron’s constituency, is nine miles, and the day return is £3.50, or £3.40 single.
“If the fares level decides what type of rolling stock is provided, his argument implies that Pacers should serve Tackley and Class 166 diesels should be sent to our coast line forthwith.”
Mr Walker pointed out savings to users of the Oyster card meant that many London journeys of similar length similar to, or greater than, those on the coast line were far cheaper :
“London to East Croydon, some 13 miles, works out at £3 single for an Oyster-card holder.”
Mr Walker also questioned the Prime Minister’s claim that Northern Rail fares were the most heavily subsidised in the country.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Nov 2014
A former Labour mayor and trade union figure from the north of England has urged people in Scotland to vote for independence.
Craig Johnston, the former mayor of Carlisle, says a Yes vote will “energise the debate about devolution” across the UK.
Mr Johnston, a regional organiser for the RMT union, also hopes a new constitution in an independent Scotland will implement workers’ rights and “instil a bit of fairness in the workplace”.
Criticising the Labour Party, he said:
“I don’t want the Labour Party to be like it is.
“I can’t support a Labour Party that introduced the private finance initiative and let the moneylenders into the NHS – Nye Bevan’s temple.
“This is the party that oversaw the crisis, bailed out the bankers and started selling off the NHS. These are the people who are trying to scare us now.”
Dennis Canavan, chair of Yes Scotland’s advisory board, said:
“This is yet more evidence of the breadth and sheer energy of the Yes campaign.
“Craig Johnston is a highly-respected civic and political figure in Carlisle, which of course sits very close to the border and for centuries has had strong links with Scotland.”
Steve Bowditch, current Labour mayor of the city disagreed and said a Yes vote would be “extremely damaging for Carlisle”.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 17 Sept 2014
Puplic services ground to a halt across Wearside yesterday as workers walked out in support of the strike. Schools, libraries, leisure centres, museums and other public buildings were shut.
Pickets were in place outside Sunderland Civic Centre.
John Kelly, secretary of Unite’s Sunderland City Council Branch, said: “Unite is proud to be taking part in strike action alongside our fellow trade unions.
“This is a fight for better public services, and for fair pay for those who work hard to deliver those services.
“Council workers have been targeted to bear the brunt of the austerity measures that have been imposed by millionaire cabinet ministers since 2010. Unite fully understand that Labour-run councils like Sunderland City Council are the scapegoats when implementing this Coalition Government’s austerity measures.
“Local government workers and the communities they deliver services to believe that local government workers should have fair pay, not poverty pay.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 11 July 2014
SOUTH TYNESIDE –
There were pickets outside South Shields Town Hall, the town’s Middlefields refuse depot and at the JobCentre in Chapter Row, and more than half of schools in the borough closed for the day.
All the borough’s libraries were also shut, and all council refuse collections were cancelled, and the crematorium on John Reid Road, South Shields, closed for the day.
Despite the widespread disruption, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, believes the public remain generally supportive of the action – and the reasons behind it.
Horn-beeping motorists expressed support for the dozen or so trade unionists gathered outside the town’s hall’s Beach Road entrance yesterday and, also on hand to show his support was Labour councillor Ernest Gibson, Mayor of South Tyneside last year.
There were pickets from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Harton Technology College in South Shields.
The school was closed to pupils, although members of other teaching unions and non-union staff did go into work.
COUNTY DURHAM –
Striking workers picketed outside council offices, job centres, tax offices and courts across County Durham and North Yorkshire.
Workers from government agencies including the Student Loans Company in Darlington, the Passport Office in Durham City and the HM Revenue & Customs offices in Thornaby took part in the industrial action.
In County Durham, more than 130 schools closed for the day, although only a handful of Darlington’s schools shut.
Twenty North Yorkshire schools closed and a further 50 suffered disruption.
On Teesside about 35 schools in Stockton were closed or partially-closed.
A survey commission by Unite on the eve of the strike found that 50 per cent of people in the North of England agreed that the local government workers’ call for an £1 per-hour pay rise was justified.
“The poll confirms that people across the North support workers who are fighting to end poverty pay in our local councils,” said Mike Routledge, Unite local government officer for the North-East.
Source – Northern Echo, 10 July 2014
Picket lines could be seen around the town with the most prominent outside of the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool.
Other’s took place outside Hartlepool Borough Council-run buildings in Church Street, and also in Wesley Square, outside the Jobcentre.
Councillor Stephen Thomas, Labour representative for the De Bruce ward, was also on the picket line to offer his support.
Coun Thomas, who works for Health Watch Hartlepool but took the day off to take part in the action, said: “I’m here to basically show my support to the strikers because I think that the way the Government is treating government sector workers is absolutely appalling.
“The one per cent pay rise they’ve had in the last four years equates to a 14 per cent cut in real terms.”
Teachers were also included in the strike with a number of Hartlepool schools closed for the day.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also joined forces in the strike action, with crews from Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stranton Fire Station forming a protest.
Brian Gibson, the FBU chairman for Cleveland, said: “The action we took part in is particularly important because all the unions have got together to show our strength of feeling at getting one per cent pay rises. The FBU’s argument is also with the Government over pensions.”
He added: “We’ve had great public support, all we’ve had is support.
“We’re so pleased.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 11 July 2014
Outside Middlesbrough Town Hall this morning, many office workers arriving for work crossed the picket lines.
Dawn Nicholson, Unison Area Organiser said: “It’s going well.
“Some people are crossing the picket lines but a lot of them are employed by Mouchel.
“Mouchel workers haven’t been balloted and can’t strike but many have signed our petition.”
However as one woman made her way into work she answered calls for her to strike saying: “People are still need to make a living.”
GMB union, shop steward, Brian Foulger, said: “We’re quite surprised by how many people, even management, have gone out on strike.
“Since 2010, local government have been putting money away for a rainy day. Well, it’s pouring down.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 July 2014
The Arts Council has distributed more lottery funding to just five London institutions than the entire North East, a funding report today reveals.
Academics behind a new look at how lottery cash is spent on arts say that despite more households in the North of England playing the lottery than in London, regions outside the capital and the South East see nowhere near the same level of investment.
The report comes from the same team who last year revealed how London was soaking up Government arts cash.
Their latest study calls for a new model in how lottery cash is handed out.
In the North East, where some 56% of households play the lottery, the region has received £221m in lottery cash since 1995.
In London, where 32% of households play the lottery every week, some five groups alone – the Royal Opera House, the Royal National Theatre, English National Opera, Sadler’s Wells and the South Bank Centre – have received £315m.
Overall London has contributed £386m to Arts Council lottery cash, but has received back £1.1bn.
The report’s author’s last night said there was “no evidence supporting the claim that ‘lottery funding has traditionally been used to fund projects in areas of the country that lack established arts and culture infrastructure’. The evidence seems to point substantially in the opposite direction.”
The local authority area with the poorest return is County Durham, where lottery players have contributed £34m since 1995 while arts organisations there have received just £12m.
Former director of Northern Arts Peter Stark helped write the PLACE report.
Mr Stark, a chief adviser to Gateshead during its regeneration plans around the Baltic and the Sage, said that while it was clear that Tyneside had benefited from lottery cash, overall there was a need for a fairer funding model.
He said: “There is something fundamentally wrong in the use of lottery funding to prioritise existing organisation, in particular the largest ones when the point of the lottery was that it helps a much wider spread.”
He said that all areas could benefit if, as money taken away for the Olympics returns, there is a new funding model that reflects deprivation, availability of art and distance from London.
“London should have a larger share, but not to this extent,” Mr Stark said. “The Arts Council likes to say that if its fund was increased it could solve this problem, but it can’t just continue with this funding model.
“We are getting to a point where the money being redirected to organisations already receiving pretty substantial funds from the tax payer must lead to a pretty serious look at how we deal with lottery funding and the way in which we fund the arts in this country.”
Last night Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman said there was overwhelming evidence that the region’s were getting a bad deal. The shadow culture minister said: “The Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital report revealed the deeply unfair distribution of funding between London and the regions.
“This second report confirms that many citizens, particularly in the North East, aren’t getting access to what they have already paid for through taxation and Lottery tickets.
“Culture and the arts are a vital source of wellbeing and Labour is committed to achieving fair access for all, regardless of where people live or how wealthy they are.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 25 April 2014
A damning list of North rail failures has been put to the Government.
MPs have accused the Department for Transport of overseeing years of neglect and of “blundering” its way into years more of service failures on crowded and outdated Northern trains.
Ministers were told it was disgraceful that they were planning to take 170 modern trains from across the entire North of England and send them south, serving constituencies such as the prime minister’s.
Shadow deputy leader of the House Angela Smith said the loss of stock on the North’s First Transpennine Express service came as result of officials pushing back its franchise renewal while they “rushed” into the sale of mainline services.
And the Government was forced to admit it will try and phase out the unloved Pacer trains, used by Northern rail on the Hexham to Newcastle line, as soon as possible in the next franchise. Speaking in parliamentary debate, the MP said: “It is becoming obvious where the Government’s priority lies when it comes to rail lines, and the priority is not with passengers in the north of England.
“As their ill-fated, illogical and shambolic franchising policy goes off the rails, it is the north of England that suffers.
“We are witnessing a situation in which the huge blunder that was west coast franchising has led to a comedy of errors, with the consequences landing squarely in the lap of the north of England and its railway services.”
She added: “We in the North believe we need efficient, well-run railways with modern trains providing the capacity a growing network needs. We need those trains so our economy can compete with the South – we all know how big that challenge is – if we are to close the North-South gap. On the Northern franchise, however, the average age of the fleet is 2, which compares with a national average of 18 years.
> I think they meant an average age of 20+, not 2. If only it was 2.
“Many routes are still served by the Pacer railbuses, which make up about a quarter of the fleet. I will not name my source, but I was approached several years ago by someone who asked whether the Pacer trains might have a future in the new country of Kosovo, but the trains may still be required on those Northern Rail services if the Government do not get their finger out.”
Ms Smith was backed by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who said: “We need to highlight the point about the differentiation in investment in different parts of the country.
“At a presentation last week to the all-party group on rail in the North, Network Rail outlined its plans for investment, including in the Northern hub.
“However, the only reference to the North East of England were signs on the map saying, York, and, To Scotland. The North East of England was not an afterthought – it was not even a thought.”
Junior transport minister Stephen Hammond said discussions were ongoing to try and let the North keep the modern trains until May 2015.
The minister added: “Pacer trains that were introduced in the mid-1980s and have rightly received their fair share of attention.
“With the introduction of new rolling stock into the region, higher quality rolling stock will be released for use across the network.
“We expect to ask bidders for the Northern franchise to put forward proposals for the removal of Pacers from the area.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 March 2014
We get all sorts of rubbish coming through the letter-box nowadays (obviously a growth area, considering the Job Centre vaccancies are dominated by positions for “self-employed” leaflet distributors !). But what we got to day was not just rubbish, it was nasty rubbish…
“Introducing The Northern Patriotic Front” trumpeted the flyer, going on to inform us that the NPF is “a campaigning organization based in the North of England and in Scotland. We firmly believe that the actions of politicians representing the so-called main-stream political parties are destroying our British way of life with the ultimate intent of collaborating in the destruction of our British race.”
You get the idea. It probably wont suprise you to hear that this sad bunch, operating out of a Sunderland PO Box, have been described as having “been set up by a number of disillusionedNational Front members” – disillusioned presumably because the NF aren’t right wing enough.
Its all the usual old rubbish –
“Britain continues to be swamped by immigrants”,
“The white British population will rapidly become a minority and be displaced.”
“White children are being taught to hate their own culture”
You know, as a white British male myself, I haven’t got a clue what this white British culture I’m apparently in danger of losing actually is, and the NPF dont define it, so I guess they dont really know either.
Since the NPF are operating out of a Sunderland adress, it may be instructive to look at some of the statistics for the city from the 2011 census…
The first thing worth noting is that over the period 2001 to 2011 overall, the North East population increased by only 2.2%: the slowest rate in the UK. Not exactly a region being swamped by anyone, let alone immigrants.
Moreover, Sunderland’s population actually declined by 3.2% (neighbouring South Tyneside also fell, by 3.1%). So wherever this alledged swamping is happening, its not in the NPF’s backyard.
But the biggest debunker of this nonsense is the figures of the city’s population broken down by ethnic groups –
Asian / British Asian 2.7%
Black / Black British 0.5%
Evidently those dastardly immigrants are going to have to put in a lot of work before they get to swamp Sunderland !
Of course anyone with half a brain can see through the NPF and their fellow travellers and their agenda of stirring up hate and divide and rule. Still, if you dont have the necessry brain cells and do want to join their crusade, the annual subscription is a tenner. But be warned – not just anyone can join their gang – you have to state that :
*I am 14 years or older
*I am of white parentage
* I am not an illegal drug user
*My spouse/partner is of white parentage
*I am not homosexual
*I am not a member of any other political party
Not just racist but homophobic too. They like to cover all the bases, don’t they ?
You can tell them what you think of them at: NPF, PO Box 1352, Sunderland, SR5 9NE
Or you might want to phone them: 0773 3511 761
And you know the biggest irony ? Their leaflet came through the door along with the usual flyers for pizza places, Indian takeaways, etc . Yes, they were swamped by flyers for “foreign” food, the most obvious and easily embraceable example of multicultural Britain.
Stuff your undefined “British culture”…I’m off for a Chinese.