Monday, 29 November 2010

Student Protest Tomorrow

Students at John Leggot College Scunthorpe are due to protest tomorrow at 10.30 in opposition to the increase in tuition fees and the attack upon the Educational Maintenance Allowance.
More coverage here

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

McCluskey Begins His Term as Unite General Secretary

The new leader of the country’s biggest union, Unite, today (Wednesday) warned that thousands of families face a miserable Christmas and painful new year thanks to the coalition government.

Len McCluskey, who earlier today was ratified as the first solo general secretary of Unite by the union’s executive, reiterated his determination to expose the lies behind the coalition government’s justification for its savage assault on the quality of national life.
Announcing Unite’s campaign to mobilise its 1.5 million members and their families in defence of their communities – titled Don’t Break Britain – Len McCluskey said: “Working people are under massive attack now. This government is expecting them to pay, through job losses and spending cuts, for the crisis made in the City. Resisting that assault must be priority number one for any trade union leader. What Thatcher tried to do to the unions, the Con-Dems are trying to do to the welfare state – erase it from the nation’s life.

“Britain’s first Cameron Christmas is going to be a time of bleak uncertainty for millions of people – not just those who work in the public sector, but anyone in any way dependent on them. Food, fuel and essentials are all rising. VAT will jump in January but wages are frozen. For ordinary people, this is not a ’good recession’, as some Tory peers would have it, but a miserable and frightening time. Only the bankers with their bonuses will be celebrating.

“That is why at the start of 2011, Unite will be launching its Don’t Break Britain campaign aimed at uniting everyone fighting to maintain the elements of a fair society and cohesive community life in the face of this onslaught.

“We will campaign alongside those who cannot take strike action to save their services – those dependent on benefits, people on NHS waiting lists, school children deprived of sports facilities, pensioners anxious about fuel bills.
“Don’t Break Britain will be about our union with its roots in the communities placing itself at the heart of the growing movement of resistance to the cuts.”
Len McCluskey added that he believed strike action to defend jobs and services will become more likely as anger deepens over the government’s actions:
“Unite will support any of its members that wish to take industrial action to save the one million jobs at threat across the public sector and to protect their pay and conditions. Indeed, I believe such action will likely prove inevitable.”
Further, Len reiterated his full support for a new beginning for the Labour party: “I would also like to make clear straight away my full support for the Labour party and for Ed Miliband’s leadership of it. I believe Unite members want and expect Labour to unite behind Ed, not to listen to the Blairite undead trying to drag Labour back to a failed past.
“Our duty now is to work might and main to defeat the Tories and Lib Dems at the local elections next May and at the next general election.”

If the intended campaign is to be effective it will need to be one that engages with activists throughout all of Unite's Sectors and Regions.
This is an ideal campaign for the Activist Committees to focus upon.
Every Region should call an aggregate meeting of their Activist Committees to co-ordinate action within their region.
We can then build upon any success and learn from failure.
We cannot allow this issue to be fragmented where different groups of activists are left ion the dark as to what others are focusing upon

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Unite GS Election Result

McCluskey 101,000
Hicks 52,000
Bayliss 46,000
Cartmail 39,000

A convincing win for McCluskey with a good showing for Hicks the only candidate who isn't an official of the union.
Gail Cartmail has also got a good return but the Bayliss camp must be despondent with this result.
They run a virtual campaign with constant emails to members and at least one general posting to members' addresses. They relied upon name recognition backed up by press ads but the members must have looked at policies and the majority saw that Bayliss had none.

Message to Les Bayliss

You can send all the emails and letters you want but you can't fool our members.
Now collect your reactionary right wing antediluvian views, disappear and return to Masterchef.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

That Wedding

Like many others totally fed up with the blanket coverage of the Royal engagement.
So I will let the greatest Labour MP that ever lived sum up my opinion.

Royalty has four functions
  • To foster the illusion of national unity
  • to preserve the hierarchy of honours and titles by which representatives of workers are subjected to the most insidious form of corruption
  • to supply a fertile source of diversion
  • to intervene in a time of acute political crisis and exert its influence in favour of the existing social order
Aneurin Bevan

Blacklisting Victory

As someone who has suffered in the past from blacklisting in the Construction Industry I welcome the news below. I spent at least two Christmases struggling to find enough money to buy presents and food whilst a local company was employing people who I knew were not qualified to perform the job they were employed to do.

A major construction contractor has been found guilty by an employment tribunal of blacklisting a prominent trade unionist.
On 10 November, at Ashford Employment Tribunal, an employment judge ruled that Unite member, Mr Phil Willis, had been unlawfully refused employment by CB&I because he is a member of a trade union, a prominent activist and was blacklisted because of this. He was awarded £18,375 in damages.

On 6 March 2009, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) raided the office of an organisation known as The Consulting Association (TCA) and found a list of over 3,000 workers in the construction industry. It was discovered that a practice was operating whereby up to 40 firms in the industry were buying information on workers and blacklisting trade unionists.
Mr Willis is a steel erector. He has been a member of Unite since 1968. In 2007 CB&I were involved in a major engineering and construction project at the Isle of Grain. Mr Willis submitted an application to CB&I for work as a steel erector on the Isle of Grain project. Although his application was acknowledged, he was not contacted again. CB&I were subscribers to TCA and used the services of TCA extensively. Mr Willis obtained a copy of his intelligence file held by TCA which contained information about his trade union activity.
Following the raid by the ICO in March 2009, the government announced it would introduce legislation to outlaw blacklisting which became law in April 2010. Unite had consistently argued that the blacklisting of construction workers was taking place. Mr Willis brought his claim under different legislation (section 137 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations.(Consolidation) Act 1992) as there was no specific legislation outlawing blacklisting at the time of his claim.
Tom Hardacre, Unite's national officer for construction, said: "It is the first successful case against a major construction company, but it will not be the last. The union is currently providing legal support to a number of workers who believe they have been blacklisted. Too many construction workers have suffered victimisation at the hands of unscrupulous employers. Unite intends to use the full force of the law to hold firms to account for systematically ruining people's livelihoods just because a few brave men were prepared to stand up for the rights of their fellow work colleagues."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Another Trade Uniost Murdered in Colombia

Teacher Trade Unionist Assassinated in Colombia

A Colombian teacher and trade union activist has been murdered as she waited at traffic lights in the centre of the town of Tulua where she had lived and worked for over 30 years. Ligia Gonzalez was shot repeatedly at around 2.30pm on Saturday by assassins who drew up next to her on a motorcycle. The killers fled the scene after the murder and appear to have escaped capture despite a heavy police presence in the area. Mrs Gonzalez was a member of SUTEV-FECODE, the Colombian teachers’ trade union.

Luis Alberto Vanegas, the director of the human rights department of the CUT trade union federation, said that Mrs Gonzalez was the 16th teacher trade unionist to be assassinated so far this year. “But as well as the killings we’ve had another 144 teachers threatened and 20 forced to flee their homes and jobs due to threats. Another three survived assassination attempts and three others have been forcibly disappeared – all in this year alone,” said Mr Vanegas.
He added that his department was working on the case of Jose Omar Olivo, also a member of the teachers’ union FECODE, who had not been seen for three months now. According to Vanegas, “he has disappeared, nobody has heard from him and we don’t know if we will find him.” The CUT has nearly 200 similar cases of disappeared trade unionists said Vanegas

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

21st Century Outdoor Relief

Last week I attended a meeting in Leeds where Tony Woodley spoke to Unite activists about the public sector cuts and the need to organise resistance. He based his speech upon class issues saying that these cuts were the most savage attack upon our class he has ever seen.
This has been confirmed with the Government's latest proposal to cut benefit payments made to the long-term unemployed unless they participate in unpaid work such as street cleaning.
This will take the welfare state back to the days of the workhouse with the  Overseers of the Poor doleing out money to those they deem to be deserving of it.
Being unemployed is not a lifestyle choice but a situation forced upon a section of society that has grown up in communities that have seen reduced investment in industry, an ever continuing move towards low paid work and a decreasing level of education for their children.
This proposal is without doubt a step towards the criminalisation of the poor.
Yet we are told we are all in this together but where is Lord Ashcroft when it comes to paying his taxes?
Over £26bn could be raised if we were to tackle tax avoidance and a 0.5% tax upon every transaction in the city of London would pay off the public debt within 12 months.
Why not invest in building homes, improving the infrastructure and continue to provide decent schools that would see an increased level of education and allow the working class to rise as one out of the depths of poverty.
This kind of investment would create jobs and provide apprenticeships that would increase the skills of our children  giving them a future and a stake in a better society.
Instead we have a Government intent upon blaming the poor for being poor and leaving children to be taught in schools crammed full of asbestos.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Remembering the 1975 Scunthorpe Blast Furnace Disaster

Photo courtesy of David Hebb

Thursday 4th November 2010 will be the 35th anniversary of the Queen Victoria Blast Furnace Disaster at Scunthorpe Steelworks, 11 men were killed when an explosion occurred in the early hours of that fateful day in 1975.
The Blast Furnaces at Scunthorpe are known as The Four Queens of Ironmaking, namely Mary, Bess, Anne and Vicky. It was on Vicky that the disaster would occur.
Molten Iron was poured into torpedoes ready to be transported via rail to other areas of the Steelworks.
Torpedoes were a relatively new piece of equipment in the past open top ladles had been used.
There had recently been a spate of cooling water leaks due to copper plugs having been replaced with steel ones which expanded at a different rate to the surrounding copper.
This would allow water to enter the torpedo on top of the molten Iron. Steam built up within the torpedo building up a pressure that would prove to be catastrophic.
All of this could have been dealt with but having become aware of the leak the decision was made to move the torpedo instead of allowing its contents to cool.
The molten Iron exploded covering the surrounding area with a deadly shower of molten metal.
There were 23 men in the direct vicinity when the explosion occurred. Four died instantly and seven others were to die later in hospital.
The decisions taken by the men present were nonetheless rational and blameless. All their experience up to that time suggested that the ladle could be safely moved away from the still-flowing water stream, and that leaving it in place was a more dangerous and ultimately very costly alternative. 

A more detailed account of the events can be read here written by a person who knew one of the victims.
We should all take a moment to remember those that died on that fateful morning.

The disaster occurred just over a year after the Nypro explosion at Flixborough seven miles from the town. This explosion killed 28 men and flattened surrounding houses.