Union chiefs Len McCluskey and Matt Wrack and left-wing author Owen Jones will top the bill at this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala.
The general secretaries of Unite and the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will be joined by the firebrand Guardian columnist on the Durham Racecourse speakers’ stage at Europe’s biggest trade union event on Sunday, July 11.
Durham Miners’ Association secretary Dave Hopper will also introduce Steve Murphy from UCATT, John McDonald from ASLEF and Chris Keates from the NASUWT.
However, Ed Miliband will be absent – organisers having decided not to invite the Labour leader.
Mr Miliband, who claimed the Labour leadership ahead of his brother David with strong union backing, became the first party boss to address the Gala since Neil Kinnock when he travelled to Durham in 2012, but has not returned since.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the 131st Gala, as dozens of brass and bagpipe bands march union and colliery banners through Durham City’s historic streets past dignitaries watching from the first floor balcony of the Royal County Hotel and to the Racecourse where, in addition to the political speeches which start at about 1pm, there will be family entertainment, campaign stalls and more.
Mr Hopper said he was very pleased with the speakers line-up.
The outcome of this week’s General Election is bound to be the central theme of the speeches; and Mr Hopper said he could not see Labour winning.
“The Scottish girl (Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon) has run rings around them.
“Miliband hasn’t come across very well. She’s putting him on the spot every time,” he said.
Last year’s Gala had a mournful feel, as guests paid tribute to the late Labour grandee Tony Benn and union leader Bob Crow.
On Gala day, the centre of Durham will be closed to traffic from 7am. Visitors are encouraged to use park and ride buses.
There is an ongoing appeal to support the continuation of the Gala. Supporters are invited to become a Friend of the event, for a minimum fee of £2 a month. For more information, visit friendsofdurhamminersgala.org
> Interesting developments ? Are the decision not to invite Miliband, and Dave Hopper’s comments about Labour’s chances the beginnings of a move away from the Labour Party ?
Source – Durham Times, 04 May 2015
A North MP will stand up for workers rights over ‘umbrella’ companies that leave them out of pocket.
Construction employees paid by so-called umbrella companies claim they have been told to make up lost wages by claiming expenses, even fraudulently.
It is claimed that companies are getting around new government regulations forbidding them to treat workers as self-employed.
They set up umbrella companies so that the workers are not directly employed by the construction firms.
Unions UNITE and UCATT will join MPs in lobbying at the Houses of Parliament this Wednesday.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who will speak alongside union heads and other MPs, said:
“This is the latest in a long line of scams designed to help employers avoid their obligations to their employees and to taxpayers.
“The umbrella company loophole is costing construction workers in my constituency hundreds of pounds a month.
“These are the people who build our homes, schools and hospitals.
“They deserve better than to be conned out of a fair wage.
“The Government was warned about this problem a while ago, and I and other Labour MPs have been raising it in Parliament for months now, but we have been fobbed off by Ministers who don’t understand the scale of the problem.”
One electrician working at a building site in Northumberland was moved onto an umbrella scheme this year.
The worker said that since the change his wages were, on estimate, £2,500 to £3,500 down in six months.
“What they’re saying is that you’ve got to make it up on expenses,” he said.
“I talked to someone from the umbrella scheme on the phone to say that I couldn’t claim for driving and he said ‘surely one of your family uses a car. Use those petrol receipts’.
He said wages should not be reliant on expenses to recoup money lost through tax.
“Why should a trained electrician have to put up with a minimum wage?
“It’s been a struggle.”
In a recent report UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy said:
“It was hoped that, as a result of the Government’s actions, construction workers would be paid properly and enjoy basic employment rights.
“The hope was dashed as, in order to get work, workers were forced to sign up to umbrella companies.”
But he said his members saw no increase in their wages.
“In fact they have to pay both employee’s and employer’s NI contributions, as much as a quarter of their eligible earnings,” he said.
Another worker, Andy, was in an umbrella scheme at a Teesside site.
He said he asked how to recover his wage and was told to fraudulently claim.
“They told me ‘you can claim six pounds a day for your parking,’ he said.
“The only thing was that the car park was private property – it was the site I worked at – and it wouldn’t cost me a penny.”
Umbrella companies act as an employer and accountant to clients, receiving invoices from them, paying the worker’s salary while deducting tax and a fee for their own work.
The method’s use has increased after government legislation was introduced to reduce the number of workers declared as self-employed.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Nov 2014