Tagged: trade unions

How many Cabinet members would have failed the trade union ballot test?

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from Union Solidarity International

The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots

Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.

The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.

Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.

But…

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‘I’ll cut my pay in half if I win’ – TUSC Jarrow election candidate

MPs should be content with pay packets a third of the size of those they get now, according to a socialist bidding to become Jarrow’s next representative at Westminster.

Norman Hall thinks it’s outrageous that our Parliamentarians are set to receive salaries of £75,000.

The semi-retired software engineer believes that puts them out of touch with ordinary working people.

That’s why the 59-year-old, of Gateshead, has pledged his support for proposals for MPs to receive no more than the salary of the average skilled worker.

He said: “That would mean they receive between £25,000 and £30,000 and are living the same lifestyle as the people they represent.

“It would help them to directly understand the issues that affect working people.”

Mr Hall, representing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) at the general election on Thursday, May 7, is also campaigning on an anti-austerity platform.

He said:

“All of the six major parties are parties of austerity.

“They are all in favour of cuts. Our stance is simple. We are saying no to austerity.”

This is the first time that Mr Hall has stood for Parliament, but he has made two bids to become a councillor in Gateshead.

Originally a member of the Labour Party, he became disillusioned with what he says was its “lack of support” for the miners during the strike of 1985 and 1985 and joined the Socialist Party, and it allied with trade unions to form TUSC in 2010.

The union coalition plans to stand in more than 120 seats across the country in May, including Washington and Sunderland North, North Tyneside and Newcastle East.

Mr Hall, a married stepfather of two, said:

“The coalition is exactly what it says on the tin.

“I’m well aware of Jarrow’s heritage stretching back to Ellen Wilkinson, and in 2011 I was involved in the Youth Fight for Jobs, which marked the 75th anniversary of the Jarrow March.

“I’m from Wallsend, and it shared with Jarrow many of the problems that stemmed from de-industrialisation.

“In terms of what support I’ll receive, that’s somewhat up in the air, but it’s clear that people are disillusioned with the mainstream parties. We are here to give the working class an alternative voice, one against austerity and against the cuts that took place under Labour and the Tories.

“It started under Alistair Darling, who made ordinary people pay for the banking crisis. The working class needs a new voice.”

TUSC opposes all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions and rejects increases in council tax, rent and service charges to “compensate for government cuts”.

The party also supports nationalisation of the banks and the financial system, is against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and all secret austerity treaties.

The other candidates standing in Jarrow on May 7 are: Stephen Hepburn (Labour), Stan Collins (Liberal Democrat), Steve Harrison (UKIP) and David Herbert (Green).

Source – Shields Gazette, 16 March 2015

Ministers launching pre-election strike on trade unions, claim North East MPs

Ministers have been accused of launching a pre-election attack on trade unions by making it harder to collect union dues from Government employees.

North East MPs said the change could hit thousands of workers at the Benton Park View complex in Newcastle, known as Longbenton, where Whitehall departments have offices.

MP Nick Brown challenged ministers to justify the decision in the House of Commons, while Blaydon MP David Anderson claimed the Government wanted to create “another Arthur Scargill” to drum up anti-union feeling.

It follows the announcement that Government departments are to stop paying trade union subscriptions directly from the payroll on behalf of staff, a practice known as “checking off”.

Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, told MPs:

“I believe that this change will enable unions to build a much more direct relationship with their members, without the need for the relationship to be intermediated by the employer.”

But the change could affect 5,500 people working at Longbenton the Treasury, Department for Work and Pensions and outsourced service providers, according to Mr Brown, MP for Newcastle East.

He pointed out that departments routinely helped staff pay a range of fees and subscriptions – but the Government was only targeting unions.

Speaking in the Commons, the MP said:

“Government Departments offer a range of check-off services to their employees, including deductions for membership fees, for private sporting clubs, for private clubs more generally and even for private medical schemes.

“What is it that makes the payments of trade union dues exceptional? Why would any employer want to withdraw this from its own employees?”

 

Mr Anderon said the Government was attacking unions as a political stunt in the run up to the election.

He said:

“The truth is that this is nothing more than another attempt to find the bogeyman whom the Conservatives have tried to find for the last five years.

“They want another Arthur Scargill so that they can try to rattle a can in the next few weeks. That is what this is all about.”

And the move was also condemned by Bishop Auckland Labour MP Helen Goodman, who said ministers wanted to weaken unions in advance of spending cuts.

She said:

“Why has the Minister chosen this moment to crack down on check-off? Has he done so because the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast a one million reduction in the number of public servants, and he wants to weaken the unions before that happens?”

Mr Maude told her:

“We have looked at this in a perfectly sensible, straightforward way. We want trade unions in the civil service – and in this context I am talking only about the civil service – to engage in a sensible, modern fashion, and we want public money to be deployed in the delivery of public services rather than the delivery of trade union officials’ salaries.”

“Many unions have sought to withdraw from check-off arrangements themselves, because they take the view that a modern union in a modern workplace should have a direct relationship with their members, not intermediated by the employer.

“Check-off dates from an era when many people did not have bank accounts and direct debit did not exist. It exists now, and many unions take the view, and indeed the Public and Commercial Services Union has said, that the easiest way to collect their dues is through direct debit.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Mar 2015

Newcastle : Thousands turn out as counter-march outnumbers Pegida protest five to one

Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city yesterday.

The German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britain was outnumbered by more than five to one as families, anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups all turned out in opposition.

And though five people were arrested the potential powderkeg passed off relatively peacefully.

But Pegida have vowed Saturday was only its “first of many” appearances in the UK.

> And the first of many humiliating put-downs…. the standard has been set.

I wish this hadn’t been necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, who spoke at the counter protest.

“What we would have liked is for Pegida to have not picked our great city to march in in the first place.

“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really showed that Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”

Official figures from Northumbria Police suggested 2,000 people had turned out for the Newcastle Unites counter protest, which marched from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate before rallying before a stage on Newgate Street.

Among them was record dealer Adrian Farquhar, from Gateshead, and Katherine Reed, a carer, who said they felt it was important to show their son the importance of standing up to groups like Pegida.

We came for our seven-year-old son,” Adrian said. “We can’t let these people like Pegida dictate the kind of world he grows up in.”

The demo was also attended by Respect MP George Galloway, a number of Newcastle councillors, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, and German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.

“For me it was very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” said Arne.

This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will have called themselves Pegida, but many of whom are right wing and nationalist, and who’s hate speak we don’t want to see in the European Union.

“I come from East Germany when I grew up we were singled out for being Christians under the Communist regime. I now want to ensure that we live in a fair Europe with the liberties denied to my own parents.”

George Galloway said:

“All right-thinking people in Britain condemn the idea of a German Nazi group coming to the North East of England trying to stir up trouble.

“The vast majority of British people respect that and the people who are on here on the counter-demonstration are representing millions.

“We have problems in Britain without racism and Islamophobia being further stoked.”

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who joined the counter-rally, said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march was “fantastic.

 

“It really shows the solidarity among the people of Newcastle and the North East, and from the perspective that the Pegida protest only had numbers in the low hundreds, and the counter protest had thousands it’s very encouraging,” he said.

But what I can’t understand is among the Pegida rally there will have been British Nationalists demonstrating alongside proud Europeans – it doesn’t make sense.”

> Well, clear-thinking was never their strong point… or indeed thinking at all.

One hundred yards in front of them, on the other side of a large police cordon filled with scores of uniformed police and mounted officers, around 375 Pegida supporters congregated in the Bigg Market.

Among the German-founded group, which insists it is neither fascist or racist, banners supporting the English Defence League and National Front could be seen.

One male supporter said:

“This has nothing to do with race. It is about Islamification of our country and nobody is doing anything about it. We want people to integrate when they come here and that is not happening.

“When we bring up these issues we are called bigots and racists but we just want to protect our heritage.”

Speakers at the one-hour gathering, which called for an “end to Islamification of the west”, had called for a peaceful protest but some supporters attempted to break through the police line after the Bigg Market demo closed, and around 100 Pegida supporters formed a line at Grainger Street in an effort to goad those on the Newcastle Unites side.

However police officers and mounted units swiftly moved in to prevented further disorder.

> Meanwhile, Pegida tried to put a positive spin on their laughably pathetic turn-out by blaming – wait for it – transport problems, without which there would have been an extra thousand there, honest.

Pegida said: “Thank you all for the first peaceful Pegida rally in UK today!

“The early hour made us lose about 1,000 people that had booked transport for 1pm which was our goal.”

> Which suggests that the extra thousand would have been rent-a-mob bused in from elsewhere.

Though it does beg the question why – since the time of the demo was known for some time – they couldn’t change their travel times.

Of course, it’s more likely they never actually existed at all, and so the non-racist Pegida had to rely on the like of the EDL to boost their attendance to the heights of, er, 375.

Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest in Newcastle

Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city this morning.

Anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups, and politicians all turned out to oppose the German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britian.

“I wish this wasn’t necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, one of the speakers on the march.

“What we’d like is for Pegida to have Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest not picked our great city to march in.

“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really shows Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”

Charlie Trotter, 21, a waiter from Morpeth in Northumberland, was among a group carrying a Morpeth 4 Peace banner.

“I came down to help make it known that the people of the North Eats are comfortable with immigration and people of different backgrounds and to show that we need to stand up to the far right,” said Charlie.

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march, which travelled from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate, and down Newgate Street, was “fantastic.”

“It really shows the solidarity among the people of Newcastle and the North East, and from the perspective that the Pegida protest only had numbers in the low hundreds, and the counter protest had thousands it’s very encouraging,” he said.

But what I can’t understand is among the Pegida rally there will have been British Nationalists demonstrating alongside proud Europeans – it doesn’t make sense.”

Among the speakers who took to the Newcastle Unites stage was German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.

“For me it is very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” he said.

This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will call themselves Pegida, but many of whom are right wing and nationalist, and who’s hate speak we don’t want to see in the European Union.

“I come from East Germany when I grew up we were singled out for being Christians under the Communist regime. I now want to ensure that we live in a fair Europe with the liberties denied to my own parents.”

The Newcastle Unites march on Newgate street and the Pegida protest on the Bigg Market were kept around 100 yards apart by police cordons and scores of uniformed officers enforcing a “sterile zone.”

It is not yet known if any arrests were made at either protest

> I had hoped to attend myself ( the Newcastle Unites rally, in case you were wondering !) but  the effects of bronchitis made worse by a heavy cold dictated otherwise.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Feb 2015

> Pegida supporters (for today, anyway – back to EDL tomorrow). As one comment for this video put it: “Never seen so many inbreed sister fuckers in one place, look like scum sound like scum tramps get a life..”

Six-point motion to scrap zero-hours contracts for Hartlepool Council workers

Twenty-two Hartlepool council workers are employed on zero hours contracts.

The number has emerged as proposals were made to scrap the deals, with five of the workers also said to be employed on other contracts with the authority.

A motion was put forward to the full council, urging it to carry out a review of the arrangements it has with workers, as well as its contractors.

It set out how within six months a series of points should be adopted, including a right to request a minimum mount of work and compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.

Putting Hartlepool First member David Riddle, who was among those to sign the motion, said the six bullet point suggestions were taken verbatim from Labour leader Ed Miliband’s proposals to scrap the contracts.

The motion set out that the contracts “are incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce,” with Councillor Riddle stating they made it hard for households to plan finances.

He added he had been employed on zero hours contracts himself and took on staff using the deals in his own work.

He said: “There might be 20-odd people in that situation, but that’s 20-odd too many.”

It was also backed by fellow Putting Hartlepool First members Geoff Lilley, Steve Gibbon and Kelly Atkinson and backed by Independent Jonathan Brash.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher proposed an amendment to refer the matter to the council’s monitoring officer for a robust appraisal to be carried out of the policy ahead of further discussions, with members agreeing.

The Labour member said discussions had been held with trade unions and some posts within the council needed an element of flexibility among the workforce.

Councillor Paul Thompson, independent, said:

“This will be expensive, that’s why employers use them, because they know it will cost them more money.

“I know the Labour Party wants to abolish them nationally and I don’t always agree with Ed Miliband on occasions, but this is one such occasion and I agree with him.”

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  10 Feb 2015

Dave Prentis: Unison reps have more standing than Conservative MPs

A union chief claims his reps have more standing than the MPs calling for reform.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the country’s biggest trade union, Unison, slammed Tory plans to make striking harder . . . and said millions of paid up members give union chiefs more clout that politicians.

He was speaking as of the Northern TUC held a Public Services Alliance Emergency Summit in Newcastle over what unions brand a “constant assault on the public sector”.

David Cameron’s party wants to raise the strike ballot threshold to a 40% turnout, end a ban on using agency workers to cover strikers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for strike action to take place and curb picketing.

Today, a strike is valid if it achieves a simple majority.

Defenders of the proposals – which form part of the Tories’ election manifesto – say strikes with low turnout among supporters are not legitimate.

But Dave Prentis said his union has the backing of its 1.3 million members, adding: “As public sector workers, we need to be able to take many forms of action or employers will be able to do whatever they want to us.

“If we do get another five years of this coalition, public services will shrink back to 1930s levels and the trade unions will be hit more than anybody else.

“We represent 1.3 million public sector workers and I really do think that trade unions and their representatives have got more standing than the politicians putting forward these proposals.”

The union chief is lashing out after a long period of discontent which has seen dozens of strikes across the public sector over job losses and pay cuts.

He added the reforms put unions in an impossible position.

He said: : “Turnout is about 25% to 30% throughout the country but we do want to encourage people to vote.

“We spend millions of pounds sending out voting papers to home addresses when life is different now. You can vote electronically and in many different organisations you use email or mobile phone but we can’t do that.

“We are willing to fund a ballot box near workplaces to do a vote just like in a general election, but because of legislation we can’t do these things.

“The only means our members can vote is a postal ballot. This puts us in an impossible position.”

The Emergency Public Services Summit is being held at the Thistle County Hotel in Newcastle city centre on Saturday.

It is chaired by Clare Williams, chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance, and other speakers include Tyneside Labour MPs Dave Anderson and Chi Onwurah.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Jan 2015

Rail fares increase hits the pocket of North East train commuters

Passengers using trains in the North East will be hit in the pocket again in 2015 as rail fares rise.

The fares increase comes into effect on Friday and regulated fares – including season tickets – have risen by up to 2.5%,

A season ticket on the Morpeth to Newcastle route was £1,040 but that increases to £1,056 in 2015.

The Campaign for Better Transport’s (CBT) Fair Fares Now say an annual season ticket to travel from Newcastle to York now costs £5,788 for the 79-mile journey – which they say is 30% of the average salary in the North East.

The CBT say the cost of a Newcastle to Middlesbrough season ticket, which is now 2,324, has risen 26.3% since January 2010.

The rail industry has said that this is the lowest annual rise for five years but campaign groups and trade unions have pointed out that the annual rises in fares have far outstripped the rises in wages and that Britons pay some of the highest rail fares in Europe.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This year’s fare hike will hit passengers particularly hard because wages are rising so slowly.

“Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people’s wages, leaving precious little for other bread and butter expenses. On average passengers are now paying £600 more for a season ticket and yet seeing no change in their pay packets.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“The scandal of Britain’s great rail fares rip off continues with today’s hike far outstripping average pay increases, and it will once again hit those at the sharp end of the austerity clampdown the hardest.”

The government say fares are crucial to funding rail modernisation.

 

 Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation since the Victorian era and fares have a crucial role to play in funding these improvements. This is because building better infrastructure helps create jobs, building a stronger economy for us all.

“We recognise passengers’ concerns about the cost of rail fares. This is why we have frozen them for the second year in a row. We are protecting passengers even further by stopping operating companies from increasing individual fares by up to 2% more.”

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said:

“David Cameron is presiding over a rip-off railway in Britain. He has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and has allowed the train companies to hit passengers with massive fare rises of over 20% since 2010.

“Some season tickets have now risen by over 30% under this Government, forcing people to pay thousands of pounds more to commute to work on increasingly overcrowded trains.”

He went on:

“Out-of-touch ministers talk about ‘fair fares for comfortable commuting’, but this is a world away from the reality for millions of hard-up commuters.

“Labour would deliver a better deal for passengers and taxpayers by reforming the railways, simplifying the ticketing system and enforcing a strict cap on fares on every route.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Jan 2015

Quarter of a million in North East are not paid living wage

A low pay epidemic is sweeping the North East, it is claimed, as new figures reveal one in four are paid below a living wage.

A report released today by KPMG estimates that well over a quarter of a million workers receive less than the £7.65 per hour experts say is needed for the basic cost of living in 2014.

The TUC claim that some businesses can afford to pay the living wage, calculated by Centre for Research in Social Policy, but are refusing to do so – and the regional economy is suffering as a result.

The North East Chamber of Commerce, however, says there has been progress and last week published a survey which shows 35% of firms increased workers’ pay above inflation last year.

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat called for a bigger commitment. She said:

“People deserve a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

“But low pay is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in the North East. And it’s adding to the deficit because it means more spent on tax credits and less collected in tax.

“We have the wrong kind of recovery with the wrong kind of jobs – we need to create far more living wage jobs, with decent hours and permanent contracts.

“The fact is there are employers out there in our region who can afford to pay living wages, but aren’t.

“It is now time for all responsible employers to commit to adopting this standard, which enables workers to earn just enough to be able to live a decent life.”

Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, will speak at the Living Wage Summit at Newcastle’s Centre for Life on Thursday as part of a week of action on low wages by the TUC.

Newcastle City Council became the first to introduce a living wage and the authority boosted this to £7.55 in April, and South Tyneside has announced it is to follow suit. Councils in Gateshead, Northumberland and North Tyneside all set up working groups to explore the issue earlier this year.

Ms McKinnell, Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary, said:

“People in the North East are really struggling with the cost of living crisis and with around one in four workers in our region paid less than the living wage, more must be done to tackle the problem of low pay.

“Finding ways to support and encourage employers to pay the Living Wage is a major part of that.

“It is fantastic to see more businesses and Labour-run councils in our region seeing the benefits of adopting the Living Wage, but it is important that we continue to demonstrate the value, both to employers but also to our region as a whole.”

The Living Wage Summit will also hear from local authorities, trade unions, voluntary and community agencies, such as the Child Poverty Commission and employers.

Speakers include James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Vero from the Living Wage Foundation, Reverend Simon Mason and Matt Stripe, HR director for Nestle, who are a committed Living Wage employer.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  03 Nov 2014

DWP brings new hope to payday lenders

In a move that will bring new hope to struggling payday lenders, the DWP have extended the waiting days for employment and support allowance (ESA) and jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) from 3 days to 7 days from today.

The new rules mean that claimants applying for ESA or JSA will not be entitled for any payments during the first 7 days that they would otherwise be eligible for benefits.

Claimants will not be affected if they have made a previous claim for ESA or JSA in the preceding three months, however, as they will be considered to have already served their waiting days. ESA claimants will also not be affected if they have claimed statutory sick pay immediately before claiming ESA.

Terminally ill claimants are exempt from serving waiting days.

The move has brought condemnation from trade unions and charities, but the chancellor, George Osborne, argues that: “Those first seven days should be spent looking for work and not looking to sign on.”

Last month Wonga was forced by the Financial Conduct Authority to write off £220 million in loans interest and charges to people who should never have been given loans in the first place. There have been calls for other payday lenders to suffer similar penalties.

But the decision by the Coalition to extend the waiting period for ESA and JSA to seven days means that there is likely to be an upsurge in applications for short-term loans by people with no other resources to fall back on.

Given that waiting times for a first payment of Universal Credit (UC) are likely to be around 6 weeks – and up to six months for people whose earnings were too high, according to new government proposals – and bearing in mind that UC also includes a housing costs element, the future for payday lenders is beginning to look rosy again.

Source –  Benefits & Work,  27 Oct 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2919-dwp-brings-new-hope-to-payday-lenders