Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category
John Prescott: Comrade.
The Tendance, old liquidationist Pabloites as we are, has always had a soft spot for John Prescott.
There’s that time he phoned me up – late, but obviously during House of Commons Bar opening times – and we had a chat, about this and that.
He struck me, as he does most labour movement people we know him, as a genuine man of the left, one of ‘us’.
Marginalised, and patronised by Blair, treated as a bleeding idiot, he kept his corner.
He did his best against the privateers running down the transport of this country, stuck up for the environment, was none too clever about Council Housing, and was – we now know – capable of arguing against the Iraq War.
He even went to Ruskin, like my dad.
Though my dad didn’t end up in the House of Lords.
Today I got an E-Mail from John, obviously personally addressed, to my good self.
Hello comrade! (We can still say that can’t we?).
I’m going to break the habit of a lifetime and be brief.
This leadership election is nearly over, and it looks like it’s down to a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham.
I was glad I encouraged MPs to nominate Jeremy to get him into this race because we really needed a debate on Labour’s future.
And what a debate it’s been! People are flocking to meetings, our number of members and supporters has tripled and there’s a buzz about Labour again.
But now you need to decide who’s the best person to lead us back to power in 2020.
And for me, that person is Andy Burnham.
From progressive renationalisation of our railways to integrating social care into our NHS, Andy has the ideas, experience and passion to unite this party and put our traditional values in a modern setting.
We need a leader who won’t just lead protests ON Downing Street. Andy’s the best candidate to march us back INTO Downing Street.
Because if we don’t choose a leader who can win in 2020, we’ll give the Tory’s another five years of misrule to hit the poor and dismantle everything we achieved in Government.
So if you haven’t yet, please vote for Andy today.
The future of our country and our party depends on it.
And you’ll make me happy too!
Today Andy Burnham has made a final appeal to voters in the Labour Party election (Independent).
I know you feel like we we’ve been dancing to the tune of the Conservative Party for too long. It’s no wonder people think we’re all the same when they can’t see the difference between us and the Tories on key issues like education and social security.
You want a bolder, more principled Labour Party. And you want us to be clearer about where we oppose the Tories. So here are five key commitments I will make if you elect me leader.
I will oppose the extension of right-to-buy to housing associations. Right-to-buy has created a dysfunctional housing market that doesn’t work for people anymore. Instead we should be championing policies such as ‘rent to own’ and allow councils to borrow money councils so they can build more homes.
I will oppose the Tories’ latest damaging changes to our education system. I will stand up for comprehensive education against the enforced academisation of schools. The values of comprehensive education should be as intrinsic to our party as the values of the NHS.
3. Trade unions
I will fight against the Conservative campaign to demonise the trades unions. I will defend the ability of the unions to defend Britain’s workers. I will lead outright opposition to the cynical Trade Union Bill and will be a proud defender of the Labour movement.
I will lead the opposition to the Welfare Bill. I am proud of what the last Labour Government did to lift children and disabled people from poverty and to help low paid workers with tax credits. The Welfare Bill will move the clock backwards and unfairly punish disabled people.
I will win the 2020 election general election. The polls have shown that, of all the candidates standing to be leader, I am best placed to win for Labour. I won’t just take the Tories on, I’ll kick them out of government.
So under my leadership we will fight the next election on a radical manifesto, with bold ideas such as integrating the NHS and social care, and renationalising the railways. I will set out exactly how we will pay for each policy, leaving no doubt in people’s minds that we are a principled Labour Party, ready for government.
To the thousands of people still undecided on how to vote, I say very clearly: don’t give up on wanting to see big changes, but don’t give up on winning either. The stakes for our party and the country couldn’t be higher.
I am sorry not to make my old mucker John happy.
I voted Jeremy Corbyn: the best anti-austerity candidate, and somebody with a solid socialist background and policies.
But I put Andy Burnham as my second preference.
John is obviously not planning to join the Kendall Resistance, and certainly does not share Yvette Cooper’s dislike of ‘boys’ toys’ like trains and cars.
I hope that Corbyn and Burnham can work together.
More…. Andy Burnham makes a pitch for Labour’s leftwing vote (Guardian)
Protests against Austerity – supported by all the trade union federations – are taking place in Belgium today.
They are demonstrating against the latest round of cutbacks of the Michel Coalition government (a centre-right cabinet backed by the hard-right Flemish nationalists of Bart de Wever).
On the spot news here (in French).
Tout autre chose/Hart boven Hart (Another thing Completely/ Heart Over Heart) – a citizens’ movement partly inspired by Podemos – took to the streets yesterday in Brussels for a ‘parade’.
The parade consisted of ten blocs, each representing the theme “Any other horizon”. These were “common goods by and for all,” “tax justice”, “a place for every generation,” “solidarity against poverty”, “dignified work”, “a nurturing environment,” “value our diversity “,” ecology: it makes sense, “citizens without frontiers “and” dare democracy! “. Podemos, MOC (Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien) and sp.a. (socialisten en progressieven anders, a small left split from the Flemish Socialist Party) joined with a float “against capitalism” during the parade. Pro-Palestinian protesters, too, decided to make their voices heard during this event.
Reports Le Soir.
Russia Today says,
Rainy weather in Brussels did not stop tens of thousands of people from protesting against austerity measures introduced by the new Belgian government. Attendance estimates from police and organisers differed sixfold.
The rally saw somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 people on Sunday, RTFB broadcaster reported, citing police estimates. Meanwhile, march organisers claimed that up to 120,000 people participated.
Some are wondering if Belgium is about to experience a Podemos type movement.
Up to a hundred activists came to the Welfare Conference, held on Friday in Congress House. As the introductory speakers made plain the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, assisted by large sections of the media, have launched a frontal assault ion the basic principles of an equitable benefit system. Instead of helping people in need they have attacked the most vulnerable.
Eleanor Firman (Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC and UNITE) illustrated what this has meant on the ground. As a result of cuts in housing benefit and the bedroom tax their group in Waltham Forest had had to defend those facing eviction.
She talked of how the Work Capability Assessment targeted disabled people. Those not meeting the government’s criteria – enforced through a flawed system run by private companies (ATOS and now Maximus), could expect to be treated with “harshness”, to the point of being left destitute. This was only one example of how welfare ‘reform’ was making people’s lives a misery. The answer was to challenge the DWP with the help of bodies like UNITE Community and, where they still exist, Law Centres.
Workshops covering benefit sanctions, the basis of the benefit system, unpaid work, and equality were held.
In the one I attended, on Sanctions, participants concentrated less on particular stories of injustice than on the nature of the arbitrary regime. We tried to bring together a rejection of all sanctions with proposals for real social security for all. Disabled needed to be assessed not by private companies and computerised questionnaires, a source of many sanctions, but by clinical criteria, – the work of GPs. The power of ‘work coaches’ to decide to withdraw benefits – whether they should eat or have a home – should be removed.
There were fruitful discussions throughout the day. Groups talked through proposals for a universal minimum income, others investigated the socialisation of basic needs, “universal goods in kind’, proposed by the Greek party, Syriza. A group of us looked into the use of Blogging, Twitter and other social media to spread an alternative message to the media hate campaigns.
Others planned activities on Monday the 2nd of March Day of Action against Maximus and the 19th of March Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions. Further protests against benefit sanctions are planned to coincide with May Day.
Stop Sanctions: A Priority.
In the afternoon Richard Exell, the TUC’s senior Policy Officer on these issues, spoke. He cast aside his prepared notes. Instead he talked of how public opinion had been swayed behind the Coalition’s polices. Cautious about demanding an end to all sanctions Richard observed, however, that the way they had left hundreds of thousands destitute may help to alter popular attitudes. The children of claimants, through no ‘fault’ of their own, were left hungry and dependent on food banks and charity. Now they will affect those in low-paid work who received benefits. There was a need to develop alternatives to this and to Universal Credit.
Paula from DPAC stated that the introduction of the new system, with its new complicated ‘claimants’ commitment’ spelled ‘Armageddon’ for those reliant on benefits.
A set of principles and demands – drawing on the Centres’ Charter for the Unemployed is being drawn up. It will include demands for a decent level of benefits, an end to sanctions, and opposition to all forms of workfare – to make volunteering really ‘voluntary’ – a higher minimum wage, rent controls, and decent jobs for all.
These will be put into a coherent form at a further meeting on the 25th of March. The finished programme will be designed to take into union bodies and wider afield.
In a speech that touched on the way activists can change government and party (Labour) policy Lynne Groves drew on the way the Bedroom Tax had been challenged, and cuts in social services opposed. Activists and the wider public were urged to get involved in UNITE Community Branches, open to all.
At the end of the meeting Kevin Flynn noted the seriousness and richness of the debates that had taken placed. Amongst other points he welcomed the “historic formation of the National Union of Bloggers”.
The breadth and depth of the experiences of those attending this meeting – about 100 strong – were striking. The words ‘the labour movement’ really came to life. There was strong participation of the disabled, young people, women, and black people. Those attending came from a wide variety of work backgrounds: from heavy industry, clerical and service work, to the voluntary sector. Delegates attended from all over the country, from Newcastle, Liverpool to the West Country and even South London.
It was, as always, a real pleasure to hear Northern accents. The discussions were more than good-natured and creative. Everybody had something to contribute. It was, in short, bloody great!
Socialist Party Leader Elio Di Rupo Backs Strikers.
Today the police in Belgium are observing a work-to-rule (grève du zèle).
The successful General Strike on Monday saw the country’s transport system grind to a halt, almost all public services closed, and workers in the private sector joined the protests.The unions also mobilised road Hauliers to bloc access to major cities.
There were a small number of clashes between strikers and scabs.
The left has described the strike as “historic”.
The International Monetary Fund has, however, just stated that the “reforms” launched the Belgian right-centred Coalition go in the “right direction” (La Libre Belgique).
Hard-right Bart de Weever, of the N-VA (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie)which advocates the Scottish nationalist style break-up of the state, and who is seen by many as the éminence grise of the government, denounced the strike as “political”.
There were tense moments when Trade Unionists protested outside the Brussels headquarters of the N-VA shouting, “« N-VA, casse-toi, la Belgique n’est pas à toi », N-VA, Piss off! You don’t own Belgium!”
Further action is planned for mid-January.
At present negotiations are underway. Centre-right Coalition Minister, Willy Borsus (MR – Mouvement réformateur ) has already dismissed the day of action saying that the turn-out was “modest” ( “La mobilisation fut modeste” ) Le Soir
The Morning Star carries a good report.
BELGIAN trade unions capped a month of action against government austerity policies with a general strike today that paralysed air and rail traffic and halted businesses across the country.
The strike targeted measures by the nation’s right-of-centre government to cut into employees’ income, extend working hours and restrict social services.
The huge action had an immediate international impact since Brussels airport, a busy hub with connections throughout Europe and beyond, had no traffic whatsoever.
Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls said some 600 flights have been cancelled, affecting more than 50,000 passengers.
Flights to and from Belgium were grounded from late on Sunday as air traffic controllers joined the strike for the second Monday this month.
The series of trade union actions, which have been the toughest in years, started last month with a demonstration in the capital that drew more than 150,000 protesters.
The government led by new Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was sworn in two months ago, plans to cut expenditure by €11bn (£8.7bn) during the next five years.
The unions are opposing a government decision to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year. Belgian law currently mandates that wages rise at the same pace as inflation.
The unions are also protesting against public-sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.
The 24-hour strike was the largest to have taken place in Belgium for many years.
As well as the transport closures, it forced government offices and schools to close and the country’s ports were blockaded.
The Belgian government has claimed that it must operate its cuts strategy in order to stay within EU debt limits.
But the European Transport Workers’ Federation disagreed and welcomed the strike, warning that “the Belgian government is using EU austerity targets to penalise families, both employed and unemployed, students and the poorest people in society.
“It is not targeting the big capital that remains almost untouched by the government’s austerity measures.”
There is talk of extending trade union action into the new year, but concrete measures have yet to be put forward.
See also:« Messieurs De Wever et Michel, la Belgique en grève veut prendre un tout autre chemin que le vôtre » Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België (PTB – PVDA). Bruxelles. Et après le 15? On continue, bien sûr! Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) et Socialistische arbeiderspartij (SAP)
Back our Belgian Sisters and Brothers!
BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters)
Belgium’s unions have called for a series of regional strikes culminating in a general strike on December 15 to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.
Belgium’s new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.
“The government is deaf to the workers and recipients of social benefits but generous to the employers and the rich,” a common statement by the country’s three largest unions said.
The unions plan regional strikes every Monday starting November 24, culminating in a national strike on December 15.
The government said the austerity measures are needed to balance Belgium’s budget by 2018 and tackle the country’s national debt of about 100 percent of economic output, one of the highest in the euro zone. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dominic Evans)
The general strike has been called by the FGTB (socialist), CSC (Christian) et CGSLB (liberal).
The scale of the action promises to be enormous.
Transport will be paralysed, public services will grind to a halt, the Union belge du transport (UBT) has urged lorry drivers to join the movement, and many in the private sector will support the mass protests (more here).
Des piquets de grève temporaires « volants », des cellules qui bloqueront donc différents points capitaux au cours de la journée, seront mis en place ce lundi et des équipes de militants de la FGTB se tiendront prêtes à venir porter renfort aux piquets manquant d’effectifs.
‘Flying pickets’ , that is ‘cells’ of moving strikers, will block different sectors of the Capital during the day. They will be set up by activists from the FGTB (socialist/social democrat union federation) who will help any pickets that need reinforcements.
The day will be marked by demonstrations in the streets.
More details in Le Soir.
Bart de Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) and part of the ruling ‘Michel Coaltion’ (hard right to centre right),has criticised the strikes.
He said yesterday that the unions had come out with “une véritable désinformation et parfois de vrais mensonges” misinformation and sometimes outright lies. De Wever accsued the trade unions of being the “”bras armé du PS”, the armed wing, of the Socialist Party.
The leader of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, and former Prime Minister, Di Rupo has backed the strikes – though underlines that the union federations have taken this action independently and on their own initiative.