Workers at one of South Tyneside’s longest-established firms are set to walk out in a row over new contracts.
Warehouse staff at the clothing firm J Barbour and Sons will embark on a four-week strike action from Monday.
The action is being taken by members of the Unite union who are unhappy at changes to their contracts which, they say, will see the removal of unsocial hours payments, and the requirement to work until 11pm.
The company says the new proposed shift pattern would be 7am to 3pm and 2.30pm to 10.30pm, but no one was available to comment on the industrial action.
The dispute centres on the firm’s warehouses in Wardley, Gateshead, and involves 134 of its 600 North East workers.
The three-week strike follows a six-day stoppage in the run-up to Christmas.
Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said:
“Many of the workers struggling to get by on less than the living wage and are the sole breadwinner with family or caring responsibilities.
“For a company that prides itself on ‘family values’ to seek to railroad through cuts and unsocial changes to contracts is hypocrisy of the highest order.
“The company should not underestimate the resolve of the workforce or the impact that four weeks of strike action will have on supplies.
“Barbour management need to negotiate a fair deal for its workforce.”
Barbour has been a successful family-run company for 120 years and its famous wax jackets are a favourite with showbusiness stars and the British Royal Family.
The threat of strike action has been a rarity for Barbour.
In November, 2007, industrial action was narrowly averted after machinists accepted an improved 4.1 per cent pay increase.
Source – Shields Gazette, 30 Dec 2014
> Ah Remembrance Day ! Look – there’s all the ‘royal’ family lined up, chestfuls of medals gleaming (how did they earn them all ? They must have been in every action since the Boer War…), and all the politicians and ex-politicians looking grave – are they thinking about all the people they sent to kill or be killed ? Probably not.
Remebrance Day is a sanitised re-writing of history – The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est, Pro patria mori – and inconvenient or embarrassing incidents are edited out. Here are a couple they won’t want to remember – but we should.
In 1917, at Boulogne, the Number 74 Labour Company – comprising unwilling Chinese and Egyptian personnel – stopped unloading supply boats at the port, downed tools and went on the rampage.
General Haig ordered swift, harsh reprisals which resulted in a total of 27 unarmed strikers being shot dead, 39 wounded, and 25 imprisoned. The colour of their skins seems to have determined the fate of the Boulogne rebels, who were considered to be unworthy of the luxury of courts martial.
Corporal Harry Rodgers was one of many British soldiers ordered, in the words of one of his officers, to “kill those foul foreigners” by shooting on sight. He remembered:
“It was a wretched, pitiful business. The poor bastards had been little more than slaves, earning 0ne penny a day compared to our shilling a day, which was bad enough.
They were nearly all illiterate peasants without the slightest notion of why they were slaving 18 hours a day in order that one alien country might knock hell out of another.
Our officers instructed us not to accord them even the dignity of rebels. We were under strict instructions to look upon them as pure rabble. If they showed face in the streets in groups of over 3 in number they were to be shot like rabid dogs – and they were, mainly because a feature of the massacre was the clear understanding that if we did not obey orders to kill we, too, could be shot.
The Boulogne affair ought to have been handled by the Military Police, but they were as much hated at the port as they were at the base camp, and it was considered unwise for them to patrol the streets. There was a severe risk of the MPs being ‘accidentally‘ shot by our own troops who felt really sorry for the Chinese coolies as they were known.”
Boulogne’s most fashionable restaurant, Mony’s, was the scene of the worst slaughter. Trouble had started with isolated skirmishes 0n 5 September, the day the 74 Labour Company were out of control. George Soutter was a private in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders:
“That morning I was detailed to go on patrol in pursuit of Chinese and Egyptians who had been repelled when they attempted to raid the Louvre Hotel and a cafe in Rue Edouard VII.
As the attackers were weak through under-nourishment, and without weapons, they had been easily held off in hand-to-hand combat with the waiters and the kitchen staff of the two esthablishments.
It was not anticipated that the mutineers would are approach the exclusive Mony’s, never mind launch an attack upon it, so no special guard had been mounted ouside the restaurant. But just after noon a dispatch rider roared down the street shouting out that they had been seen in the vicinity of the restaurant. Our patrol and two others elsewhere in the town, each consisting of about 30 men, were immediately switched to the scene.
By the time we arrived, the mob was already overturning staff cars outside the restaurant. Inside, (British Army) officers had overturned the marble-topped tables and were cowering and crouching behind them on their hands and knees on the sand and sawdust covered floor.
It was not an ennobling sight and neither was what followed.
Ninety of us opened fire as ordered and the foreigners, who had not even got as far as the restaurant door, fell dead in the gutter.
How many I don’t know. I was too appalled to look. I just wanted to get away as soon as possible. Even today, all these years later, I am too ashamed to dwell on the awful details of that massacre.
Looking back on it all the only slight satisfaction I get is the memory of ‘stray‘ bullets ‘accidentally‘ smashing through the restaurant window. The officers inside had more to fear from their own armed men than they had from the unarmed ‘rabble’ “.
Kill unarmed labourers or face the risk of the firing squad yourself – it was no idle threat. Victor Silvester – who later became a well-known dance band leader – was made to take part in 5 executions of British troops. He recalled:
“The first man I had to help to kill was a private in my own regiment, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, a fact which filled me with even greater shame. He was said to have fled in the face of the enemy.
We marched to a quarry outside Etaples at first dawn. The victim was brought out from a shed and led struggling to a chair to which he was then bound and a white handkerchief placed over his heart as a target.
Mortified by the sight of the poor wretch tugging at his bonds, twelve of us, on the order, raised our rifles unsteadily.
Some of the men, unable to face their ordeal, had got themselves drunk overnight. They could not have aimed straight if they had tried, and, contrary to popular belief, all twelve rifles were loaded. The condemned man had also been plied with whisky during the night, but he had remained sober through fear.
The tears were rolling down my cheeks as he went on attempting to free himself from the ropes attaching him to the chair. I aimed blindly and when the gunsmoke had cleared away we were further horrified to see that, although wounded, the intended victim was still alive.
Still blindfolded, he was attempting to make a run for it still strapped to the chair. The blood was running freely from a chest wound.
An officer in charge stepped forward to put the finishing touch with a revolver held to the poor man’s temple.
He had only once cried out and that was when he shouted the one word ‘mother’. He could not have been very much older than me. We were told later that in fact he had been suffering from shell-shock, a condition not recognized by the army in 1917.
By the time I had taken part in four more such dawn executions, I did not have to feign illness, like the other executioners. I was screaming in my sleep and physically ill every day. I was put into a hospital and strapped down to the bed to prevent me running away.
I was then sent away from Etaples and all its horrors to the Italian Front. The simple business of being twice wounded there was less injurious by far than all the mental scars that Etaples left with me for the rest of my life.”
> Etaples base was the scene of a six-day mutiny by British and Commonwealth troops in 1917 – hushed up by the powers-that-be, but eye-witness accounts exist. The official records are due to be released in 2017… but who’d bet against them having been ‘lost‘ over the past century ? Interestingly, the Etaples regime had much in common with the current government attitudes towards the unemployed. We might return to this later.
Source – The Monocled Mutineer, William Allison & John Fairley, first published 1978
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918
> As noted elsewhere, ConDem posh boy George Osbourne gave a speech today, at Tilbury. It might have been nice if a few dockers had decided to heckle him, but as that doesn’t seem to have happened (perhaps no nasty rough types were allowed in), here’s a section of his speech, wherein he refers to his plans for those of us on benefits, with a few heckles added…
The culmination of this week that sees the biggest reduction of business and personal tax in two decades.
It’s only possible because your hard work is helping us fix the economy – and it is only part of our plan to create jobs.
> Oi, posh boy ! Was cutting all those public sector jobs in the North East also part of your plan to create jobs ? How did that work, then ?
For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.
We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work
There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.
> There was not enough jobs for those looking for a job. That was, and is, the real problem.
Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to wo
That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.
> Hang on, George… if people could get almost as much on benefits as they would working, how do they get trapped in poverty ? Is this a tacit admission that some jobs pay as little as benefits ?
It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.
> How about tax payers like me (we’re all taxpayers – VAT, council tax, bedroom tax) who left school in 1977 and over the years has paid a lot of tax and national insurance on the understanding that, should I fall on hard times, I could claim benefits or, should I be lucky enough not to need to, my national insurance payments would go to help those who did need help ?
National Insurance is payed for a reason. Stop perverting that reason.
So if Tuesday is when we help businesses creating jobs; and Sunday is when we help hardworking people with jobs; next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them.
Benefits will only go up by 1% – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.
> Missue of figures alert ! Its not the percentage of the rise that matters, but the benefit or wage it’s an increase of.
A 10% rise for someone on basic Jobseeker’s Agreement would only amount to little over £7 a week – or £1 per day.
Meanwhile, our MPs are happily accepting an 11% rise – that’s 11% of some very good existing rates of pay. Got anything to say about that George ? No ? Thought not.
When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working. That was outrageous.
> £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits – what ? Yearly, monthly, weekly ? How were these benefits made up ? How many cases were there ? Were there any or did you just make it up ?
If ‘some people’ ever really did get that much, then it must have been a very minute percentage of the total. So why are your policies designed to hit those much further down the chain, those on basic benefits ? Hardly fair, is it ?
So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.
> Define the “average working family”.
We’re now capping the overall welfare bill, so we control that. That came into force last week.
And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.
From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits.
We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.
So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.
> so they can get constant help and encouragement – there speaks a man who’s never had to claim even the most basic benefits. Constant harrassment and discouragement would be nearer the mark.
To claim benefits people will also have to show they can speak English, or go on a course to learn how. It is ridiculous that people who didn’t speak English, and weren’t trying to learn it, could sit on out of work benefits in this country.
If people can’t speak English it is hard to get a job. Starting this week it will be even harder to get benefits if they’re not even attempting to learn it.
> How about posh boys who can speak English but talk bollocks, George ? How about people with regional accents ? Cut their benefits until they learn to talk proper ?
We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit.
When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.
> By which I suppose he means their old, discredited, scam-riddled and generally ridiculed Universal Jobmatch.
From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.
> Then slowly starve as your claim for basic benefit help takes weeks to be processed…or get evicted for not being able to pay your rent, bills, council tax, bedroom tax, etc.
We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits -whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.
> I do like the use of ther word “ask” – as if you’d have a choice. But George, if there is all this work, why not pay people a proper wage – you know, the National Minimum Wage – to do it ? Working for benefits means they are no longer benefits – they are an illeagal, sub-NMW, slave labour rate job.
They will be gaining useful work experience and there’s an important principle here: if you want something out, you’ve got to put something in.
All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.
That’s fair to the people claiming benefits – and fair to taxpayers who are paying for them.
> As pointed out, I am a taxpayer, we all are, and I have paid in plenty over the years towards the same benefits I now have to jump through hoops for.
And if some of the taxes I’ve paid also go to help others who need it, good – that’s the whole idea of society, at least as I understand it.
The old way has failed. More public spending leading to more welfare bills and more government jobs the country couldn’t afford.
Instead, this week, we follow the new way, our way: backing businesses by cutting their taxes so they can create jobs; cutting the tax on hard working people so their job pays; and holding back welfare rises and imposing more conditions on those claiming the dole, so that getting a job pays more.
> so that getting a job pays more – pays more what ? More costs in poverty, disease, stress, mental illness ? Bigger prison bills, when people are forced into desperate measures ? More homelessness ? Who exactly does this pay more to ?
The biggest business and personal tax cuts for a generation.
Welfare changes that get people back to work.
That’s our jobs plan and it’s the only plan in town.
And it’s working.
> Look, if you really just want to save money – stop subsidising the royal family (the true benefit scroungers), scrap Trident, stop getting embroilled in foreign wars that are nothing to do with us, 1% pay rises for MPs (and cut down on the expenses as well), stop pouring money into abortions like Universal Jobmatch… and so much more.
Of course, if your plan is actually a gradual reintroduction of the feudal system, then yes, it obviously is working.
Thanks to Nicola Jones for this … worrying times indeed!
A British citizen was held for days without charge in a London mental hospital under little-known laws which allow the police to arrest and detain anybody who voices criticism against politicians or celebrities.
The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) was quietly set up to identify individuals who they claim pose a direct threat to VIPs including the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Royal Family.
It was given sweeping powers to check more than 10,000 suspects’ files to identify mentally unstable potential “killers and stalkers” with a fixation against public figures.
The team’s psychiatrists and psychologists then have the power to order treatment – including forcibly detaining suspects in secure psychiatric units.
Using these powers, the unit can legally detain people for an indefinite period without trial, criminal charges or even evidence of a crime being committed and with very…
View original post 800 more words
> A masterful summing-up of the UK today…
Scaremongering and celebrity obsession ensures the true picture of life in the UK remains forever obscured, writes Joyce McMillan
It’s never a good idea to fly into a rage in a public place; but there it was, a provocation so absurd and extreme that fury seemed the only sensible response. It was a magazine cover, lovingly displayed in a shop in central Edinburgh a few weeks ago; on it was a picture of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, with a caption that read, “Not only the woman of the year, but the woman of the century.”
No-one seemed to find this odd, even though the century has barely begun; no-one was objecting, at least in public, to the idea that the perfect role-model for a generation of young women, struggling to earn more than £7.50 an hour, is a woman whose career suggests that the world is your oyster, so long as you can arrange to be born rich, to marry into the royal family, and to devote all your energy to standing around looking silently pretty in weirdly old-fashioned clothes.
And although the bizarre values of the celebrity magazine that published this cover might seem a far cry from the current debate about the UK economy, and the strange “recovery” it is now experiencing, it seems to me increasingly clear that the nation’s tolerance for the economic policies to which it has been subjected since 2008 is somehow bound up with the hallucinatory extremes of celebrity culture that now pervade our national life, inviting people to empathise not with themselves and those around them, but with the rich and famous.
This week in the House of Commons, the Tory benches could be heard roaring with joy at the news that British economic growth has returned to the heady level of 2.4 per cent a year, and that unemployment has dropped to just over 7 per cent. And when Ed Miliband tried to point out that this “recovery” is not much use to an average British earner whose real income is still £1,600 a year lower than it was in 2008, he was literally shouted down, by Tory MPs hysterical with triumph at the news that their beloved financial sector is once again growing by leaps and bounds, promising ever more lavish times for their friends in the City.
Ed Miliband is in the right of the argument, of course, so far as the current round of statistics are concerned. As a TUC report released on Monday made clear, the current increase in economic activity in Britain is mainly confined to London, with unemployment still actually increasing in the north-east and south-west of England. 80 per cent of the new jobs created since 2010 are in sectors where the average worker earns less than the living wage of around £7.95 an hour. Many of those “in work” are on poverty wages, and are being forced to work part-time or on zero hours contracts.
And astonishingly, the government actually includes in its “in work” figure the large number of people – more than a million, since 2010 – who have been forced to work for nothing, either in unpaid internships, or as part of the government’s own workfare scheme.
The truth about Britain, in 2014, is that ours has become a low-wage, low-output, low-productivity economy, with chronic under-employment and little job security, and with economic growth driven only by increasing household debt; indeed it would be interesting to know what proportion of the current upturn is directly related to the recent development of yet another London property bubble, supported by the government’s generous help-to-buy subsidies to those already on the property ladder.
If this is the real story of what’s happening in the British economy, though – a steady corrosion of ordinary workers’ earnings and benefits as a share of the national wealth, all designed to pay for a deficit almost entirely caused by the banking crash of 2008 and the subsequent bailout – it is not a story that most people have ever heard. The controlling narrative, as we all know, is the one about how the financial crash was caused by excessive public spending and an over-generous benefits system; the one about how we were all “living beyond our means” and have to pay the price; the one about how blaming rich bankers for the crash they caused, or expecting them to change their behaviour, is pointless and immature; the one about how migrants and benefit scroungers are the problem, and attacking them will provide a solution.
And it’s not difficult to grasp how this desperately skewed account of reality – actually false at every point – meshes with a television schedule that ranges neatly from Benefits Street to Strictly Come Dancing, offering viewers first a precisely-chosen group of underclass hate-figures, then a sustained orgy of identification with a series of celebrities; it’s a perfect, instinctive symphony of elite ideology, designed to divide ordinary people against themselves, and so to continue to rule.
All of which is elementary stuff, of course, for any boss class facing troubled times; distract the people by hatemongering and scaremongering, provide enough glitzy distractions and royal events, convince them that economic problems are just symptoms of personal moral failure – and hey presto, you can fool most of the people, almost all of the time.
And this time, too the tiny elite who are now trousering an ever-greater share of the world’s wealth have a peculiarly strong advantage, in that there is almost no organised resistance; just the odd protest, a brief and disparate occupy moment, and a steady thrum of dissent from the beleaguered trade union movement, which is about to become the main victim of the fiercely authoritarian Lobbying Bill currently passing through Westminster.
The idea that there is no alternative to George Osborne’s tired 1980’s neoliberalism may be intellectual and historical nonsense, in other words, disproved by the very breath of history, here in Britain and elsewhere.
Yet unless those of us who oppose his world-view begin to unite, to organise, to start arguing out a more truthful and compelling narrative in every workplace and community on the planet, our chances of challenging this new age of extreme inequality will be slim indeed; as slim as Kate Middleton’s tiny waist, and – in the eyes of a bamboozled generation – not nearly so glamorous, so interesting, or so important.
Source – The Scotsman, 23 Jan 2014