Tagged: NUFC

Newcastle: ‘Stay out of our city’ Final message to Pegida ahead of Tyneside demo

You are not welcome in our city.

That was the overriding message from residents, community leaders, political parties and union bosses just 24 hours before an “anti-islam” protesters arrive in Newcastle city centre.

Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida supporters will be taking to Tyneside’s streets amid claims they are trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.

Saturday, will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.

A growing counter-demonstration, now expected to attract in excess of 2,000 people, will simultaneously march through the city centre in protest over Pegida.

The counter-demo, organised by Newcastle Unites, is also aiming to attract a string of high profile speakers including George Galloway MP.

 

Police said they were fully prepared to cope with the extra influx of people into the city centre just hours before Newcastle United kick off their home match against Aston Villa.

Today, opponents to Pegida made one final rallying call.

David Stockdale, councillor for Blakelaw, who will also be speaking at the meeting, said:

“Newcastle is a friendly, tolerant and inclusive city of sanctuary. We thrive on the diversity of our communities which make our city one of the truly great cities of the world.

“We have a proud history of standing up to intolerance and hate and to groups like Pegida who seek to do harm to our Muslim sisters and brothers.

“Pegida paint a brutal misrepresentation of Islam. It’s important to stand up to that and for me as a non-Muslim it’s important to speak out against Pegida’s twisted prejudice.

“The Newcastle Unites counter-demonstration will show Newcastle at its best. Islamophobia targets Muslims but it hurts us all and I’m so proud of how our wonderful city has come together to march in peace and solidarity against Pegida and everything they stand for”.

The Pegida movement started in Germany but has reportedly launched a number of other European off-shoots in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Jeremy Beecham, former leader of Newcastle City Council, said:

“This city has a deserved reputation for welcoming people and for good relations between the communities which enrich its life.

“It has welcomed the contribution made by people from a variety of cultures across a range of activities, from the NHS to St James’s Park. Pegida is an extreme right wing movement driven by hatred of Muslims, on whom they have focussed their resentment for problems they perceive in Germany.

“Their Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, and it’s difficult to understand why Newcastle has been singled out for their malign attention. I hope the people of this city will unite to reject the message of division which they seek to bring to our streets.”

David Kelly, 33, from Newcastle, will be part of the counter-demo.

He said: “We don’t want these people in our city. They don’t belong here. We are a friendly, tolerant and welcoming place.”

Pegida claim to have chosen Newcastle for their first UK march due to having already established a following in the city.

 

Chi Onwurah,  Newcastle MP, said:

“We are a city of diverse communities and shared values where we both respect and look out for each other. We have a history of facing hard times together and growing stronger.

“People coming from outside to spread a message of division and hatred are not welcome. Pegida is targeting Muslims in our community and we have to stand up and say it is wrong, Islamaphobia is wrong, anti semitism is wrong, all racism is wrong, we can do better than this, we have done better than this when we saw off the National Front and the BNP.

“The idea that there might be children in Newcastle who feel unwelcome or unappreciated because of the religion they practise I find absolutely obscene. That is why I’ll be there on Saturday.”

Police say they have had open dialogue with parties from both demonstrations and say they are satisfied the demos will pass “peacefully”.

Chief Superintendent Laura Young, from Northumbria Police, added:

“I have had guarantees from both organisations that this will be a peaceful demonstration.

“People should not be put off coming into the city centre on Saturday. People will still want to come shopping, there is a football match on in the afternoon and people will be coming for other events.

“I would just say that they should give themselves some extra time to get in and out of the city centre as there have been some road closures.”

The march, which will begin at 10.30am, has attracted national, and international interest.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26 Feb 2015

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Wonga Group to halve UK workforce as part of restructure

Wonga Group will remain as Newcastle United sponsor until at least 2017, despite a major restructuring and cost reduction programme that will see it shed half of the workforce supporting its UK arm.

The company has announced a strategic refocus on its consumer business, which will see its UK headcount drop from 650 to 325 as its alters its business model in light of the rapidly changing short-term credit market.

A spokesman confirmed that all marketing is under review as part of the process.

However, he added:

“As far as Newcastle United is concerned, we have a contractual obligation until 2017.”

It is expected the phased reduction in roles will primarily impact teams that support the UK business from London, Dublin, Cape Town and Tel Aviv.

The remaining roles are expected to be based in London and Cape Town, with plans to close the Tel Aviv office by mid-2015 and the Dublin office by mid-2016.

Wonga will immediately launch a formal 30 day consultation period for those at risk of redundancy and expects all changes to be complete within 12 months.

Andy Haste, who was appointed group chairman in July, said:

“Our focus is on creating a business that meets the demand for short-term credit sustainably and responsibly, resulting in good customer outcomes.

“We’ve already made significant changes, including appointing a new leadership team, implementing a new risk decision engine and tightening our lending criteria.

“However, Wonga can no longer sustain its high cost base which must be significantly reduced to reflect our evolving business and market.

“Regrettably, this means we’ve had to take tough but necessary decisions about the size of our workforce.

“We appreciate how difficult this period will be for all of our colleagues and we’ll support them throughout the consultation process.”

As part of the restructuring plan, Wonga – which has also agreed to sell its small business lending brand Everline to Orange Money Ltd – will now focus on its core consumer businesses in the UK and overseas.

It has likewise filed an application for authorisation with the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, beginning a regulatory process that can last up to a year.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Feb 2015

Newcastle Unites against Pegida demonstration backed by unions from across the country

Unions across the region are joining forces in protest against the controversial anti-Islamic demonstration set to take place in Newcastle next week.

German right wing group Pediga plans to hold a demonstration on Saturday in the city’s Bigg Market.

But opposition Newcastle Unites plans a counter march beginning at Gallowgate and heading to Newgate Street.

Comedian and activist Russell Brand and Respect MP George Galloway have pledged their support to the anti-facist group.

Dozens of groups from across the region are backing Newcastle Unites, and organisers are now asking all unions across the country to strengthen their cause.

Newcastle councillor Dipu Ahad said:

“I urge all the unions in the country, to unite and support Newcastle Unites Against Pegida.

“I urge you all, who want to see a better future for our children, where we can coexist in peace, no matter what our race or religion. Let us start today, and not tomorrow as each and everyone of us has got a responsibility as humans.

“Our unity is our strength, and together we can eradicate all types of hate, no matter what.

“Too many times we focus on what divides us, which diverts the real issues. We’ve got a responsibility to combat evil, so I urge you all to stand up and be counted.”

The councillor said many groups had come forward voluntarily to support Newcastle Unites.

Just days ago Pegida were told by Newcastle United fans: “We’re black and white”.

The demonstration is planned for the same day as Newcastle face Aston Villa at St James Park, and NUFC Fans United put out the defiant message on their website which reads:

“There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

“As Supporters of Newcastle United we are asking what kind of message is such a rally sending to players such as Papiss Cissé, Mehdi Abeid, Cheik Tiote and Moussa Sissoko as well as to our wider Muslim community? Remember, we are black and white; we are UNITED.”

A heavier-than usual police presence is expected on the day of the two marches.

Newcastle Chief Supt Laura Young said:

“We have met with representatives from both of the organisations and have agreed on plans for their demonstrations.

“The organisers from both groups have assured us they do not want any trouble and their intention is to hold peaceful protests before moving on and we will act in a neutral capacity to facilitate this.

“People often ask why we can’t ban protests. Police forces do not have the power to ban a protest or the right to peaceful assembly. This is a fundamental democratic right and is laid down in the European Convention of Human Rights.

“On occasions we can insist on certain conditions being applied to ensure we preserve public safety, prevent crime, serious disorder and serious damage and protect the rights of others.

“Our priority is ensuring public safety and minimum disruption to the local community.”

Newcastle Unites against Pegida supporters so far are:

• The Durham General Branch of the GMB

• Northern Cultural Projects CIC

• The Durham Miners Association

• The County Durham Trades Council

• Northumberland County Unison

• The Newcastle Hindu Temple

• Islamic Diversity Centre(IDC)

• Spice FM

• Show Racism The Red Card

• Durham UAF

• County Durham Unites Against Racism

• Newcastle Council of Faiths

• North East People’s Assembly

• Newcastle Stop The War Coalition

• Northumberland County Unison

• UAF North East

• Sunderland Anti-Fascist Coalition

• West End Housing Co-operative in Newcastle

• TWAFA

• Unite Against Fascism

• Stand up to UKIP

• 5Pillars

• Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service(NCVS)

• Jude Kirton Darling MEP

• Julie Ward MEP

• Lord Beecham

• Comedian and activist Russell Brand

• Journalist and activist Yvonne Ridley

• Dave Anderson MP

• Chi Onwurah MP

• Davy Hopper (General Secretary of Durham Miners Association)

• Palestine Solidarity Campaign Fife

• Sunderland Together

• NUFC Fans United

• PCS Northern

• Bakers Union

• Tyneside Irish Centre

• Unite The Union

• Gateshead Unison

• Unison Northern Region

• TUC Northern Regional

• Newcastle Central Constituency Labour Party

• North East Greens

• Tyneside SWP

Source –  Sunday Sun,  22 Feb 2015

Newcastle United fans hit out at far right group Pegida

Concerned Toon fans have sent out a message to anti-Islamic extremists planning a controversial march in Newcastle on a match day telling them to “Remember we are black and white; we are united.”

NUFC Fans United have put out the message on their website after the demonstration was announced by far right German group Pegida in the city centre on Saturday, February 28 – when Newcastle take on Aston Villa at St James’ Park.

The statement reads:

“The purpose of this notice is to bring to the attention the serious concerns of many Newcastle United supporters that have contacted us regarding the proposed Pediga anti Islam rally being planned in our city on 28th February and the subsequent and inevitable counter demonstration that will ensue.

“The aim of the rally seems to be to protest against what they (Pediga) perceive as an Islamification of Britain. The concerns being voiced are multiple but primarily they centre around the fact that firstly this Far Right German movement have chosen the city of Newcastle upon Tyne; a city famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit to hold their rally and secondly the fact that the rally is planned for somewhere in the city centre on a match day, (when we entertain Aston Villa) and the possibility for conflict that it might bring to our wonderfully diverse and glorious city, when bigotry and intolerance replaces match day euphoria.

“There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

“As Supporters of Newcastle United we are asking what kind of message is such a rally sending to players such as Papiss Cissé, Mehdi Abeid, Cheik Tiote and Moussa Sissoko as well as to our wider Muslim community. What kind of message does it send to those who come to study in our colleges and universities, or who visit as tourists to wonder on the splendour of our heritage history? What message does it send to those who may be offered the opportunity in the future to come and work in a city that has prided itself on its warm welcome but will now be tarred with being a city that allowed itself to be associated with those of the German Far Right. Is this the message we want our city to be remembered by and tarnished with?

“If your answer is NO then please join us in ensuring that as strong a message as possible is sent out by the widest section of our Tyneside community as possible to say that this rally is unacceptable, uncalled for and not welcome on the streets of Newcastle. With the support of all like minded football supporters we hope we can all openly bring pressure to bear on the authorities and add to the pressure already being placed by other like minded groups to refuse this group the oxygen of publicity, not least because of the nature of its being but also because of the risk of conflict between football supporters on match day and those who wish to come to our city and besmirch its reputation.

“Remember, we are black and white; we are UNITED.”

Comedian Russell Brand has pledged to march against Pegida in Newcastle.

The political activist and stand up accepted an invitation by Newcastle councillor Dipu Ahad to stand shoulder to shoulder against the “anti Islam” march.

He told Ahad, who is a key figure in Newcastle’s Muslim community, he’d be at the march after the councillor contacted him on Twitter.

The march will be the German anti-Islamic group’s first in the UK.

The counter demonstration will be attended by Respect MP George Galloway, among others.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  19 Feb 2015

Stockton South Tory MP received £22k in donations

Stockton MP James Wharton received £22,000 in donations between July and September – the fifth largest amount donated to any individual MP during the period.

The donations amount to almost as much as the £29,400 received by the whole of the Plaid Cymru party in the same timeframe.

No other Tees MP received individual donations in that time period, according to the data collated by Trinity Mirror.

But several donations were made to constituency party offices on Teesside.

Mr Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, received two donations of £10,000 each and one of £2,000.

One of the donations worth £10,000 was given by former Conservative party co-treasurer  Peter Cruddas.

The other was given by company JCB Research Ltd – owned by Anthony Bramford, a Tory life peer and chairman of construction equipment firm JCB.

The remaining £2,000 was donated by IPGL Ltd – a privately-owned holding company of a trading group, based in London.

Mr Wharton told The Gazette he would “not spend public money on my newsletters or leaflets”.

“I work hard to stay in touch with residents all year round – not just at election time,” he said.

“I am pleased to do this without spending taxpayers money.

“I am sure many taxpayers in our area will appreciate that too.”

> Perhaps they should withold judgement until they’ve seen what he claims on expenses…

The donations will help Mr Wharton, one of only two Conservative MPs in the North-east, as he seeks to defend a majority of just 332 at next year’s General Election.

He has previously received separate donations in 2013 from former Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall and Alexander Temerko, a Russian businessman.

Mr Temerko was allowed to stay in Britain after a judge ruled an attempt to extradite him to Russia on fraud charges was politically motivated.

As such, he is allowed to make political donations.

Mr Wharton has also received funding from the United and Cecil Club.

The organisation has come under the spotlight after supporting Tory candidates in a number of key marginals.

Under funding rules, wealthy supporters can give up to £7,500 without disclosing their identity if it is funnelled through a club.

Among other political donations on Teesside from July to September were:

:: £2,500 donated in Stockton South to the Conservative party from The Association of Conservative Clubs Ltd;

:: £1,700 worth of administration fees donated in Stockton South to the Labour party from UNISON;

:: £2,500 donated in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland to the Conservatives from a Richard E Jones;

:: £1,200 donated in Redcar to the Lib Dems from the Redcar and Cleveland Lib Dem Council Group;

:: £1,000 donated in Redcar to Labour from David Blunkett (the Gazette was unable to verify if this was the former home secretary);

:: £2,500 donated in Redcar to Labour from the Communication Workers Union.

The largest donation received between July and September this year was to the value of £950,000.

It was given to the Liberal Democrats by a George G Watson.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  19 Nov 2014

Miliband turns his fire on Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct over zero hour contracts

Labour leader Ed Miliband is to turn his fire on Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct chain, in a major speech attacking “zero hour” contracts.

Mr Miliband will accuse the chain of “Victorian practices” in the way it treats staff.

And he will highlight plans to change the law – so that workers with regular shifts have the legal right to a regular contract, if Labour wins the next election.

It comes as the Labour leader continues his fightback following reports that some MPs had concerns about his leadership of the party.

Earlier this week he delivered a speech pledging to stand up to “vested interests”, to ensure hard work was rewarded and to stamp down on tax avoidance by the very wealthy.

Today he is set to focus particularly on zero hours contracts, in which work is not guaranteed and staff are called in as needed.

Mr Miliband is to say:

“A graphic symbol of what is wrong with the way this country is run is the army of people working on zero-hours contracts with no security while a few people at the top get away with paying zero tax.

“This zero-zero economy shows we live in a deeply unequal, deeply unfair, deeply unjust country run for a few at the top, not for most people. It is a country I am determined to change.”

And he will highlight Sports Direct, which has 400 stores and is estimated to have 17,000 people on zero hours contracts.

“Sports Direct has thousands of its employers on zero-hours contracts, the vast majority of its workforce.

“Sports Direct has predictable turnover, it is a modern company with stores on many high streets and, judging by its success, where many people shop.

“But for too many of its employees, Sports Direct is a bad place to work.

“This is not about exceptional use of zero-hours contracts for short term or seasonal work which some employers and workers may find convenient. This is the way Sports Direct employs the vast majority of its workforce.

“These Victorian practices have no place in the 21st Century.”

Mr Miliband will set out plans to legislate to give employees the legal right to a regular contract if they are working regular hours; to refuse demands that they are available over and above their contracted hours, and to compensation when shifts are cancelled at short notice.

An inquiry commissioned by Labour and conducted by businessman Norman Pickavance, former HR & Communications director at supermarket chain Morrisons, reported earlier this year:

Sports Direct has expanded dramatically since 2008 and gained a large share of the sports retail market. About 17,000 of their 20,000 strong staff are employed on zero-hours contracts.”

Last month the firm said it would make its employment terms clearer in job adverts for zero-hours posts, following legal action brought by a former employee.

Mr Ashley, an entrepreneur who built up his business from a single sports shop in Maidenhead, bought a majority share in the club in 2007.

Meanwhile, controversial payday lender Wonga has agreed with Newcastle United to remove its logo from all children’s replica shirts and training wear from the 2016/17 season.

Wonga said it followed a review of its marketing launched by new chairman Andy Haste in July to ensure that none of it could inadvertently appeal to the very young or vulnerable.

It has already ended its puppet advertising campaign.

The company said the logo was being removed from children’s kit at the earliest possible opportunity, and that due to kit production schedules this would be from the start of the 2016/17 season – the last season of the current shirt sponsorship deal.

Darryl Bowman, Wonga marketing director said: “As a responsible lender we believe removing our logo from children’s replica shirts and training wear is the right thing to do. We appreciate the club’s support in this matter.”

Newcastle United managing director Lee Charnley said: “We understand and respect Wonga’s position and are happy to support their decision.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  15 Nov 2014

Controversial Newcastle United sponsor Wonga suffers slump in profits

Newcastle United sponsor, Wonga, the controversial payday lender, has reported a slump in profits as it counts the cost of a drive to clean up the image of the business.

Wonga said the 53 per cent slide in profits to £39.7m in 2013 was in part due to a one-off charge in relation to a recent scandal over fake legal letters, which were used in order to chase struggling customers into paying up.

The company said it expects that it will be “smaller and less profitable” in the near term while it builds a more sustainable business for the future.

Source –  Northern Echo, 30 Sept 2014

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct empire accused of being biggest ‘zero hours’ employer

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has today been accused of being the biggest employer to use the soon-to-be illegal “zero hour” contracts.

The billionaire’s Sports Direct empire is said to have up to 20,000 part-time staff on the contracts.

But MPs and campaigners say the use of zero hours contracts is “unfair and exploitative,” as workers having no guaranteed working hours and have to seek permission from management to work elsewhere.

A copy of a 2012 contract is reported to tell employees: “If you wish to undertake any work outside the company, whether paid or unpaid, you should raise the matter with your manager … it may be decided that the additional work would conflict with your duties at Sports Direct.com Retail Limited. You would then be prevented from taking it up.”

It is understood this clause remains in current contracts and does not give minimum guaranteed working hours. Campaigners have described the wording as an “exclusivity” clause although it is not known whether Sports Direct enforces the rule.

Labour MP Alison McGovern said: “This seems like ‘exclusivity’ in all but name to me. It is clearly exploitative and really unfair.”

> Alison McGovern is MP for Wirral South. What, no comment from Newcastle’s Labour MPs ?

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said zero hours contracts can benefit some workers because of the flexibility but that “unfortunately, it has become clear that some employers abuse this flexibility.”

The Government is seeking to ban such working conditions – which are also reportedly used by companies including McDonalds, Cineworld and Burger King.

Ministers estimate some 125,000 workers will benefit – meaning Sports Direct staff could account for almost one in six of the entire workforce the Government wants to help.

Sports Direct declined to comment.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  12 Aug 2014

Wonga say they are committed to Newcastle United sponsorship

Labour MPs have increased the pressure on payday lenders Wonga to quit their Newcastle United shirt sponsorship deal – but the company say they are committed to the club.

The finance firm’s new chairman Andy Haste announced on Monday he would be reviewing the company’s advertising and marketing “to make sure that we don’t leave any impression that we are trying to influence or target the very young”.

But with thousands of junior Magpies fans wearing Wonga-sponsored shirts, some MPs said they hope he will end to Wonga’s partnership with NUFC.

A spokesman for Wonga said that its chairman had been asked a comment about Wonga’s marketing in general in the wake of the company’s decision to ditch its “puppet” advertising campaign, and had made no specific remarks regarding Newcastle United.

We continue to be proud sponsors of Newcastle United FC,” she said. “Our new chairman, Andy Haste, was commenting on our general marketing approach – he did not make any direct comment on our sponsorship of the club.”

Gateshead Mp Ian Mearns said: “If Wonga express an interest in disassociating themselves because of a duty to young fans in their new business model then I’d hope Mike Ashley would let them out of their contract and find a new sponsor.

“But it will depend on what Wonga are contractually obliged to do in terms of the longevity of their sponsorship deal.

“It might be very difficult to extricate themselves from it.”

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said the possibility of Wonga continuing as sponsor would be in direct contradiction of its vow not to target children.

She said: “The idea that Wonga is not targeting children when its logo is emblazoned across toddlers throughout Tyneside would be laughable were it not so serious,” she said.

“I look forward to a day when Newcastle United’s sponsors are not a source of shame for so many fans, until then I will not be attending matches at the stadium.”

One the issue of the ground re-naming, MPs refused to be drawn.

Wonga paid club owner Mike Ashley to “return” the ground’s name to St James’ Park in October 2012 after he had named it the Sports Direct Arena after his sports shop empire.

But Ms Onwurah refused to be grateful for the move.

She said: “I am not grateful to Wonga for retaining the name St James Park. Mike Ashley should never have changed it to Sports Direct in the first place.”

However, Mr Mearns welcomed the new Wonga chairman’s admission that in the past it has made “some serious mistakes” and his desire for the company to operate in a “responsible and transparent manner.”

I very much welcomed the comments from Wonga and I think some of that comes from a realisation by them that hopefully there will be much more stringent regulation from the FCA,” he said. “They’re waking up and smelling the coffee and taking a realistic attitude.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 July 2014

Zero hours contracts picked apart by union leaders at the Durham Miners’ Gala

Zero hours contracts were picked apart by union leaders as part of a round of speeches at the most popular Durham Miners’ Gala since the 1960s.

The historic event, which is now in its 130th year, attracted thousands of people to its Big Meeting event on Saturday and was blessed with fine, sunny weather.

Long-time Labour MP Dennis Skinner warned corporations of using the controversial zero hours arrangements and took aim at Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, for employing people on that basis through his company Sports Direct.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers also spoke, as well as GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Prison Officers’ Association general secretary Steve Gillan.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Durham as banners from former mining communities were carried past accompanied by the sound of more than 50 brass bands.

The Chopwell Lodge banner with its striking imagery of Karl Marx and former Russian leader Vladimir Lenin caught people’s attention as usual, while several new banners joined the procession this year.

Organisers from the Durham Miners’ Association said it was the most well attended year since the 1960s, despite ongoing financial worries for future galas.

The organisation faces legal bills of £2.2m following a failed six-year compensation battle for its members through the courts.

While £60,000 was found to run this year’s event through a fundraising drive, association chairman Dave Hopper has previously said there may be difficulties beyond 2015.

However he told the crowd: “Don’t worry. We will be back next year and probably the year after.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 July 2014