Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Green Alternative. Caroline Lucas, Guardian letter on Academy schools (24/9/2008)

Rod Aldridge accuses me of distorting the facts about the loss of special needs facilities at the proposed academy school in Brighton (Letters, September 17). The reality is that an existing special needs centre serving children across the city will be replaced by a smaller facility simply for students at the school. And the proposed football stadium car park will be built on part of the existing school site, so the school will have less land as a result.

Yes, he has said the academy will follow the council's admissions procedures for a little while - but he could change his mind at any time, leaving one of the most deprived areas of the city without a single LEA-run community secondary school.

The Green alternative is simple: the government should stop blackmailing communities by offering them school improvements only if they hand over control and management from local authorities to private businesses and Labour donors. It should properly fund community schools, however they are run.

Dr Caroline Lucas MEPLeader, Green party

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

"It is like going back to Dickensian times ..."

acknoledgements to Darrell<> &NID=2123

CWU members launched three days of strike action against Romec's attempt to impose Dickensian conditions with a picket of Parliament today. Workers employed at Portcullis House in Westminster picketed the building inprotest at Romec's unilateral action to impose fixed shift work spans of 6 to 22.00 from Monday to Saturday with no unsocial hour's payment. Attendance times are to be decided by local managers and refusal to abide bythe new rules can lead to dismissal. The company are also seeking to scrap current travel arrangements which would see paid working only commencing when an individual arrives at thesite of the job.

"This means some of our members are having to leave home at2 or 3 am in the morning to get to the first job," said Steve Jones, an NEC member, who sees the action as a direct attack on the right of the union tonegotiate on behalf of its members. "If the Romec management get away withthis the union won't be able to negotiate. It is a direct attack on the union's right to effectively represent its members."

The Romec contract in Parliament involves maintenance, installation, dealing with faults, heating, lighting and air conditioning. Michael Walker, who has worked in Parliament for seven years, believes that the new conditions will mean many members won't see their children during the week.

"There is Saturday working and working until 10pm at night," said Michael. "It is like going back to Dickensian times when workers lined up for a days work." Roy Wendorne, who works at Mount Pleasant, told how the number of engineerscovering London had been whittled away by management. "Now we only have oneperson on a shift at Mount Pleasant and they can be called out to south oreast London," said Roy.

Cyril Onyejekwe, the regional rep for Romec in the South East, believes that Romec's proposals with the anti-social hours make a farce of any commitment to providing a work life balance. "This is a big challenge to the authorityof the CWU and we must win," said Cyril.Peter Joyce, who has worked in Parliament for the past six years, has beenstruck by the audacity of Romec in acting to effectively tear up a Joint Industrial Board Agreement.

"I've worked on projects like the Channel Tunneland Jubilee Line and the employer has never acted in this way. This amounts to ripping up the agreement. It is a back to year zero approach being driven by the minority shareholder Haydens," said Peter. "This is a nationally co-ordinated policy that must be opposed and defeated."

Unison Official Victimised send emails to protest

----- Forwarded Message ----From: John McDermott <>Sent: Saturday, 20 September, 2008 7:46:29 PMSubject: Victimisation of Trade Union Official

Dear UNISON members,

East North East Homes Leeds have stepped up the attack on UNISON by formally charging John McDermott, Convenor, with Disobedience Of Orders and naming the date if the disciplinary hearing on 2nd October.

The charge relates to carrying out trade union activities in excess of 1 day a week and e-mailing UNISON members who do not work for ENEHL.

Please send e-mails of complaint to the Chief Executive Steve Hunt

John McDermott
with acknowledgements to Sue Tibbles

Friday, 19 September 2008

GPTU statement on public sector pay dispute

“GPTU notes that the NUT, and PCS, are balloting for strike action over public sector pay and that Unison still has the possibility of calling strike action over this issue. GPTU supports industrial action over this issue when relevant Union members decide it is appropriate, especially as the pay settlements now being discussed are below current inflation rates”


The Green Party has called for unions to take united and sustained industrial action in order to reverse the government’s policy of imposing real-terms pay cuts on public sector workers.

Teachers and civil servants are currently balloting for industrial action against pay and privatisation, whilst July saw over 500,000 local government workers across the country – including care assistants, refuse collectors, cleaners, teaching assistants and social workers - taking strike action against attempted pay cuts.

Local Government employers’ "final offer" amounted to just 2.45 per cent, whilst food prices have risen over 9 per cent in the last year and energy bills by over 15 per cent.

Derek Wall, the Green Party's former Male Principal Speaker, has called for trade unions to put increased pressure on the Government and employers by uniting to carry out sustained strike action. In the wake of a national two-day walkout by UNISON and Unite unions in July, green union activists began exploring the potential for joint action between unions across different sectors.

Derek stated, "What public sector workers are asking for is entirely fair – that they are not forced to pay for economic problems which they are not responsible for."

"Many Green trade unionists believe that further strike action must be announced immediately and should be coordinated between trade unions as far as is possible. We support the widest and broadest coalition of industrial action."

"Sustained and united strike action can force the hand of the employers and overturn their plans to impose pay cuts. All public sector workers deserve a pay rise not only to cover inflation, but to make up for years of below inflation pay deals, which are pay cuts in all but name."

Joseph Healy, the Green Party's Parliamentary Candidate for the Vauxhall Constituency joined picket lines in solidarity with Lambeth's local government workers.

Joseph joined strikers at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton and pledged the support of Lambeth Green Party in their fight for fair pay and against privatisation. Meanwhile local Labour MPs, Kayt Hoey, Keith Hill and Tessa Jowell, were nowhere to be seen whilst several Labour Councillors crossed picket lines.

Joseph, who is an active member of UNITE and Co-Convenor of the Green Party’s eco-
socialist platform, Green Left, said: "Everyone should be clear that the offer on the table is a pay cut in real terms. The Green Party entirely supports the right for workers to demand fair pay. Gordon Brown's Labour Government appears content to make working class people pay for the country’s economic woes, which is simply unfair."

"The Green Party is working with trade union activists up and down the country to build grass roots resistance to pay cuts and privatisation being imposed by Labour, Lib Dem and Tory administrations."

James Caspell, a UNISON shop steward added: "It's great that Joseph and other Green Party representatives are joining picket lines up and down the country and showing the sort of solidarity that is entirely lacking from the Labour Government. Britain is crying out for a new left alternative and I am sure that Green activists will continue to play a key part of the workers' struggle for environmental and social justice."

The Green Party has a record of championing trade union activism, from defending attacks on public services to advocating the repeal of the anti-trade union laws introduced by the Conservatives and left in place by Labour. On the London Assembly, Green Party Members were integral in establishing the Living Wage Unit aiming to lift London's lowest paid workers out of the poverty trap.


Green party activists have spoken in support of nurse and trade unionist, Karen Reissmann, who was sacked in November 2007 for speaking out against privatisation in the health service, a direct attack on the rights of trade unionists to campaign against job and service cuts.

Karen’s Employment Tribunal hearing was recently postponed - and won't take place now until some time between December 2008 and April 2009.

Secretary of the GPTU, Peter Murry, stated “The Green Party opposes any attack on trade unionists and their right to speak out on issues which affect the lives of workers. We call on Karen’s employers to reinstate her immediately.”


Sunday, 14 September 2008

Chancellor should tax oil profits and cut fuel bills

10 September 2008

Caroline Lucas has hit out at Alistair Darling after the Chancellor again failed to make a decision on a windfall tax on excess energy profits, which Dr Lucas first called for three months ago.

Darling was speaking at the TUC Congress in Brighton, where delegates had earlier backed a call for a tax on the energy giants. He also remained non-committal on the key Green policy of providing free insulation through mandatory energy company contributions, saying energy firms had to "do more" but declining to take action to compel them.

Dr Lucas said:

"Darling is dithering over windfall tax just as he dithered over Northern Rock. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands are slipping into fuel poverty, having to choose whether to heat or to eat.

"He says he's 'listening' to calls for a windfall tax, but that's not enough - he has to act. People urgently need help to get through the winter, and we need to get to work insulating homes to cut bills in the future."

The Green leader first called for a windfall tax to pay for measures to cut bills three months ago, and renewed the demand in her inaugural speech to the Green Party conference last Saturday.

In the same address, she placed the policy of insulation at the heart of a Green New Deal to tackle recession, rising fuel prices and climate change:

"The core [of the Green New Deal] would be a 21st century project to make the nation's buildings truly energy efficient ... a major investment in insulation, efficiency and renewables, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

"And indeed Greens have already started doing this. In Kirklees, for example, Green councillors have spearheaded an initiative to ensure that every home receives free insulation."£10 million of investment has been leveraged from energy companies, saving the average family around £150 per year off their heating bills."

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Vote in favour of bringing the Trades Councils back into the TUC

This from the Socialist Unity Blog. As a member of Southwark Trades Council,I welcome the fact that the role of Trades Councils has been recognised bythe TUC. Some of the best activism is coming from Trades Councils.Joseph Healy

From the national chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, Dave Chappell:"With the overwhelming vote in favour of bringing the Trades Councils back into the TUC for the first time in 113 years, the longest standing English trade union movement injustice was righted, and little bit of trade union history was made.

Congratulations to Bob Crow, the RMT,especiallly the Bristol Rail Branch RMT, who first took the motion to their union conference, and all who lobbied within their own unions."

Thursday, 11 September 2008

UCU derecognised at Nottingham Trent University

Nottingham Trent University has formally terminated recognition of UCU in a direct attack on independent trade unionism on the campus.

The university has been attempting to rewrite the recognition agreement for months, proposing a set of radically inferior arrangements that would see the campus unions marginalised in favour of a 'consultation and information forum' that would include non-union representation, while facility time for reps would be cut by a staggering 80%.

UCU has attempted to negotiate with the university but managers have refused to move one inch from these proposals and on Friday, they formally terminated the recognition agreement with three months notice, a full six months less than is stipulated in the agreement!

Further information is available on the NTU branch website.

Support your colleagues at Nottingham Trent. This is an attack not just on UCU members at Nottingham Trent, but on all UCU members everywhere. The managers of every university and every college in the country will be watching.

Members' solidarity has already helped to erode management intransigence at another university recently. We need your help again now. Please take a couple of minutes to sign the branch's online petition below.

Please also send the branch messages of support. Email your message to now and we will forward them on.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

MIGRANT WORKERS "No one is illegal"

GPTU Fringe 6/8/2008 at GREEN PARTY CONFERENCE September 2008 MIGRANT WORKERS "No one is illegal"

Speakers:Teresa Hayter and Bob Hughes

Teresa Hayter is an activist and writer and a long-standing anti-racist campaigner. She has been active since 1993 in the campaign to close Campsfield immigration detention centre, is one of the authors of the No One Is Illegal manifesto and a member of the National Union of Journalists. She has written seven books including Aid as Imperialism and Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls.

Bob Hughes is an activist, writer and teacher, currently researching the relationships between the global high-technology industries, insecure and migrant labour, wealth inequalities, and their human and environmental impacts. He is a member of the Campaign to Close Campsfield and a co-author of the No One Is Illegal Manifesto. He also teaches part-time at Oxford Brookes University. Web site:

Thanks to Payam Torabi for arranging speakers and chairing the meeting

Teresa Hayter
Bob Hughes (part 1)
Bob Hughes (part 2)
Questions & discussions (part 1)
Questions & discussions (part 2)
Questions & discussions (part 3)

Sunday, 7 September 2008



"British people work some of the longest hours in Europe, with some 3.6 million people regularly working more than 48 hours a week, yet 7 out of 10 people working over 48 hours per week say they would like to work fewer hours. For many however this is impossible, as they simply cannot afford to do so. Overwork is forcing workers into unhealthy lifestyles as they attempt to reconcile long working hours and family responsibilities, according to a report from the charity Working Families. Half of the parents surveyed were unhappy with their work and family
balance. A majority reported that work dominated their lives, and family life suffered as a result.

Working long hours also led to increased levels of stress, resulting in irritability, exhaustion and depression. At the same time, the gap between the most prosperous and the poorest in society has not been as great since the nineteen thirties. In 2006, around 4 million adult employees were paid less than £6.50 per hour. Two-thirds were women. 3.8 million children in Britain live in poverty. Since 1980 the poorest quintile of the population has experienced no growth in real arnings. Nearly twice as many people have relatively low incomes as 25 years ago.

The average total earnings of FTSE 100 chief executives have doubled over the last five years to a new record of £3.2 million. The top three per cent of the population own three times as much as the whole of the bottom half of the population.

Therefore, the Green Party will campaign:

A. for the immediate ending of the British opt-out of the European Working Time Directive;

B. for the National Minimum Wage level to be increased to come in line with the Council of Europe Decency Threshold, which is set at 60% of net national average earnings (this would currently mean a minimum wage of £8.17 per hour);

C. a new top rate of income tax to be levied on incomes over 10 times the National Minimum Wage"

NB Conference amended the motion to delete the following original para C.

"For maximum income limit of 10 times the National Minimum Wage, through the establishment of a 100% rate of income tax on taxable personal income above that level."



"Trade Unions and their branches will have the right to establish workplace environmental representatives, who will have the same rights at work as other trade union representatives. This will include appropriate facilities and time off to undertake their duties. Such representatives should play a decision making role in the development of strategies and implementation plans for making workplaces, companies and other public, private and third sector organisations greener and more

(This text to be inserted in the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society, the main GP policy document)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Campaign against Climate Change: Planning Meeting for the National Climate March and Campaign AGM

London, Saturday 4th October, 11.00 am to 5.00 pm Room G2 in SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), London

SOAS is off Thornhaugh street, off RusselL Square otherwise approachable from the other side from Malet street. Nearest tube : RusselL Square. G2 is in the main building where the Students Union is, up the stairs from the central courtyard.

The National Climate march is the biggest mobilisation on climate in the UK. But we need to make it bigger. Can you help us ? And plan climate campaigning ahead into 2009 and beyond.

The National Climate March on December 6th is also part of a Global Day of Action on climate,last year more than 70 countries were involved. Help us build this international campaign still bigger- both for the Poznan Climate Talks this year and the all important Copenhagen 2009 Talks next year.

As well as joining other countries around the world to demand urgent action and climate justice from world leaders the National Climate March will be pushing 3 major issue/demands to the government

No New Coal
- No Heathrow / Aviation expansion
- No to Agrofuels

While these negatives are balanced by a positive

Yes to renewable energy, energy efficiency, low carbon transport,deep and rapid emission cuts, green jobs

Help us find effective ways to bring these to the Climate March, and campaign on them through the coming year.

Help us build up the campaign network around the country to build the Climate March ever bigger and campaign effectively through the year.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Knife crime, moral panics and social solidarity by JJ Caspell


If there is one place where knife crime and the systemic, material causes behind it needs to be discussed, it’s in schools. News that a poem is to be removed from the GCSE English syllabus because it provides a vignette of somebody who carries a bread knife is the latest overreaction stemming from the moral panic that is clouding a discussion of the real causes of knife crime.

I am not sure what comrades in the NUT think about this decision, but this “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” approach is surely the wrong one in attempting to deal with an issue which is causing the needless deaths of an increasing number of young people.

Knife related crime is without doubt a serious problem. The shock value of working class teenagers stabbing each other for apparently "no reason" is without doubt a difficult issue for the collective consciousness of British society to digest.

However, the mass media is fuelling collective hysteria by amplifying the extent of the problem and, as a result, demonising all young people in the eyes of society as potential “killers”. The reality is that a young person is still more likely to die crossing the road, driving a car, or indeed committing suicide, than to be stabbed to death by a "gang of youths". Yet we do not see daily hysteria demonising reckless drivers in the way that we do “hooded” youths.

When interviewed, young people who do carry knives nearly always concede to carrying a blade through “fear” rather than as an “aggressive” act, and yet there is no forum or indeed discussion as to where this fear originates from. Given the fact that violence generally is rife in the mass media without discussion, and that material insecurity and inequality is fuelling an emergent generation of alienated teenagers, it is essential that the political and social causes and consequences of all forms of violence are discussed at every opportunity, rather than brushed under the carpet.

We live in a society where the only people (including young people) attributed with “value” are those with wealth and power, or those that can at least represent such traits. Under capitalism, our self-worth is commodified and measured against the manufactured social identities of MTV Cribs, Big Brother and celebrity culture. At the same time, the nature of racial and class cleavages in our society denies many from being able to realise such socially constructed goals, and as children become teenagers, such tensions begin to emerge socially with young people denied of a collective political voice and agency.

As a result, opportunities should not be understood as something that individuals benefit from in a “fairer” or “more progressive society”, but rather as a result of collective resistance to the economic system we live in; a measure of the strength of working class solidarity. In short, opportunities must be taken, not given.

In a capitalist society, it is simply short-termist, pie-eyed reformism to suggest schemes aimed at a certain demographic to improve their "life chances" (which ludicrously implies society is organised by “luck”) are the silver-bullet solution to social problems, and the same applies to young people. The argument that we just need more youth clubs or apprenticeships when in the age of 24-hour mass media the very measure of our self-worth is placed out of the material rich of the vast majority is an example of piecemeal reforms which only scratch the surface of youth alienation. As long as “opportunities” only apply to some, or even only a majority of individuals (though this is far from the case currently) then exploitation, material insecurity and alienation will continue to fuel violence and social insecurity.

It was particularly telling to note that certain parts of the mass media only really took the knife crime issue seriously (and perpetuated the hysteria) once a white teenager had been slain. There is unnerving sociological evidence to suggest that the oppression and suffering inflicted on many black brothers and sisters across the world has led to a desensitisation to issues afflicting black people even within our own city. But such an explanation is superficial. The real underlying issue is one of class.

For example, some argue that violence in South Africa has got worse since Apartheid was overthrown. Whether or not this is true, what is true is that violence existed under Apartheid, not only by the white population in oppressing blacks, but also within the townships where hopelessness and despair saw oppressed groups turn on each other. When such violence amongst an underprivileged working class begins to erupt and puncture bourgeois conceptions of hierarchical material security, the ideological state apparatus begins to sit up and take notice – and fights back.

There is always a tension between moralism, used as a fig leaf to justify class oppression, and materialism, where one can identify the inherent, underlying economic factors which fuel social problems. As a result, media amplification results in moral panics where anything but the underlying issues will be blamed for such violence. We see this in Palestine, Georgia and indeed all over the world.

The reality for the majority of the British population, as with the world as a whole, is to have virtually no control over one's material security. Capitalist globalisation weakens this position further, particularly in a time of economic crisis. The resultant alienation and deprivation will continue to fuel the tragic and needless consequences of knife crime and violence generally as young people feel increasingly alienated.

The alternative can only be solidarity, organisation and activism to eventually overthrow the system which underpins violence, material insecurity and the gross inequality that blights our planet, and is indeed killing it. An alternative, and I believe the only one that guarantees security and respect for all, is eco-socialism.

Whatever the means of ridding the world of capitalism and hierarchy and replacing it with equality, solidarity and sustainability and peace, schools remain a vital forum for teenagers to potentially discuss the issues which affect them on a daily basis. Long may that continue.

Posted by James Caspell