Friday, 25 July 2008
(NB Derek's statement is also covered in the Morning Star 25/7/2008 p.4 )
Derek Wall, the Green Party's Male Principal Speaker, has called for trade unions to put increased pressure on the Government and public sector employers by uniting to carry out sustained strike action, in opposition to attempts to impose pay cuts.
Last week over 500,000 local government workers across the country – including care assistants, refuse collectors, cleaners, teaching assistants and social workers - took industrial action because employers are attempting to impose pay cuts. The 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 15 per cent.
In the wake of a national two-day walkout by UNISON and Unite last week, many union activists are discussing the potential for joint action between unions across different sectors.
In Scotland, a local government dispute is likely to lead to strike action, whilst a decision by the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Teachers resolved to ballot for further discontinuous strike action in late September. Civil servants union, the PCS, is also to ballot its public sector membership for twelve weeks of discontinuous action. In June, delegates of the Communications Workers Union voted unanimously for strike action against pension cuts, post office and mail centre closures, and up to 40,000 job losses.
Derek Wall 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 planned now 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 10 years of below inflation pay deals, which are pay cuts in all but name."
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 Greater 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.
James Caspell, 07941 154912
Thursday, 24 July 2008
London's bus workers, members of Unite the union, will today (Thursday 24th July) march on City Hall to demand a single rate of pay across all bus companies that operate within the capital.
In a recent ballot of Unite's 28,000 busworkers 99 percent voted yes to the proposed single rate of pay across the network.
Unite is calling for a single rate of pay for drivers of £30,000 a year, based on a 38 hour week. Currently the eighteen London bus companies all operate with different pay structures, with pay inequalities of up to £6,000 a year.
There is a startling disparity between bus drivers' pay in the capital, with rosters in some companies seeing many drivers complete nearly 60 hours per week.
Driving on London's roads is a potentially hazardous job, and as a result Unite is calling for standard rosters, scheduling and pay rates that will remove this culture of excessive working hours on London's bus routes.
Peter Kavanagh, Unite senior regional industrial organiser said: "If the tendering system Transport for London (TfL) and the employers insist on continuing with their 'Race to the Bottom', our members will be taking part in a race of their own - a race to the picket lines!"
Employers are also threatening to introduce lower rates of pay for new employees and even to set up new 'low cost' operations as sub-divisions, with inferior terms and conditions, in their frenzy to win or retain contracts for certain routes.
Steve Hart, London regional secretary for Unite said: "Boris Johnson recently described London's bus drivers as the 'World's finest'. If he really believes this then he needs to act quickly to end the huge disparities in pay across London's bus networks. Unite has written to the mayor inviting him to comment on our campaign for equal pay for his drivers."
For further information contact: Jody Whitehill, Unite Press Officer on 020 7420 8938 or 07768 693956
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
Thank you everyone who joined this group, spread the word, came to a demonstration, wrote to their MP, or in protest to CEO Karl Holweger.
Together with the workers' own campaign (sticker days, petitions, and the talk of something more), this made all the difference - there is absolutely no question that without it, Pat would have no job now, and union members at P&B would be less confident.
So thanks to everyone who has been part of it.
Pat was told at 11am this morning that he is to be reinstated, with back pay and a 'final written warning'. The company, however, has not backed down on the principle, and intends to alter the text of the staff handbook to reinforce their control of press relations. We still believe that trade unionists have a right to publicise their activities.
If you would like to congratulate the company on taking the right decision on Pat's case, and letting them know it has been noticed, Karl's email remains email@example.com, and you can cc: us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be positive!
For now, this is a victory. The union at Pell & Bales is stronger now than before this began. Pat starts work on Monday.
Communication Workers Union
Monday, 21 July 2008
The Stall was obscure
Ufos attacked the site at night (or perhaps it was the cider)
Derek arrived to speak to the main rally on Sunday
Reinvigorated, the broad Green masses eargerly surge forward to embark on the next phase of the struggle!
London Assembly Green Party Member
All London workers deserve a living wage
On the eve of a strike by the RMT in support of efforts to secure a living wage for London underground cleaners, Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member, has called on London's Mayor to lobby Tubelines, the employer, to follow Transport for Londonâ€™s lead and pay cleaners of its section of the network at least £7.45 an hour.
Darren Johnson said:
"I fully support the action of the RMT in support of underpaid tube cleaners. Paying poverty wages to workers who provide an important public service is unacceptable. Since taking over the work of failed Tube contractor Metronet, Transport for London has proven that it is possible to pay everyone working on the underground a living wage.
Tubelines, and all London employers, should recognise the cost of living and working in the capital by ensuring that everyone who works for them is paid at least the London living wage of £7.45 an hour."
Friday, 18 July 2008
Quick report from Norwich- there was a decent percentage of people out on strike, although less than we'd hoped for (was really disappointing to see certain individuals crossing the picket line...). A couple of City Council buildings were shut down.
A couple of Green Councillors came to the main rally yesterday, which was attended by about 150 people, and Adrian Ramsay was allowed a speech to give a message of support. Interestingly the reception from crowd gathered was noticeably more enthusiastic than for any other speaker. There was no noticeable presence from any other party, although I'm told the Labour Leader of the Council sent about a 2-sentence email of support (as opposed to our detailed letter signed by all Councillors!)
Thursday, 17 July 2008
"Thank you for inviting me to speak at this wonderful rally of the Local Government strikers. I was proud to be on the picket line with your comrades at Briar Court Centre in Lindley this morning from 7 until 9. I can assure you that your fellow Unison members in the Huddersfield Health branch want me to express their and my own solidarity with the actions you are taking this week, for a very just cause, decent pay for the public sector.
Earlier this year I had hoped that we would be able to join you in concerted industrial action on pay, but our own union was telling us that the health offer of 2.75% was a good deal. This is the same union which has worked hard to encourage you in local government that your offer was abysmal at 2.45%. I'm not paid much working in health but I can assure you that 0.3% of my money isn't a good deal, and I don't even think the Chief Executive of our Trust thinks it's much money for them either.
We are all working hard and campaigning to get the "re-opener clause" actioned to enable a review of health pay this year in view of the high rate of inflation that you've already heard other speakers talk about, and we all want to be able to join you and the other public sector unions in combined action later and get a real victory.
Thank you for giving me this chance to talk with you all and keep fighting on and make this Govt think again about its attacks on the public sector."
This year's Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival should be the 'greenest' yet. The South West TUC has worked hard to encourage people to come by public transport, coach or shared cars. People will be urged to recycle and leave no waste; a wind and solar generator will be tested; all caterers are expected to come with biodegradable plates and cutlery and the new South West TUC Green Workplaces project team will be on hand to give advice.
The Tolpuddle Green Camp has had a good response and local environmental campaigners and advice agencies will have stalls. The cottages and museum have had their insulation improved and solar panels are being fitted.
Derek Wall, the Green Party Principal Speaker, will address the festival and the discussions on the Saturday will include a debate over foodproduction
"The repressionof the Tolpuddle martyrs in the 19th century is the reason for this festival but trade unionists are still repressed even killed for their work in countries like Colombia. I am proud to have been invited to celebrate the spirit of Tolpuddle and to provide the support of the Green Party to workers across Britain, particularly in the public sector who are threatened with pay cuts. Green politics is about social justice and to create real justice you have to challenge neo-liberalism and give workers rights.In turn environmental problems are problems that can only be solved with the participation and input of workers. We need green plans where workers helped develop ecological forms of production. We must also remember how green industrial action has brought benefits. In the 1980's sea dumping of nuclear waste was halted after industrial action by the National Union of Seamen. Of course such action would now be illegal because of Mrs Thatcher's anti-union legislation. Strong unions are essential both to the prosperity of ordinary people ratherthan fat cats and to protecting the planet. This is why I am proud to say the Green Party supports the campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill.'
Dr Wall is speaking at the main rally on sunday at 12 pm .
Green Councillors in Brighton have joined Unison members on the picket line outside the Town Hall, while Greens across the country are supporting other strike actions.
Brighton Councillor Ben Duncan was the only politician to address yesterday's Unison rally in Brighton, and is joining strikers on the picket this morning. In his speech yesterday, he said:
"Gordon Brown says we all have to tighten our belts in the face of tough economic times - of rising food, housing and transport costs. He says spending money ensuring wages for some of the lowest-paid keep up with inflation will push that inflation still higher. What nonsense. The reality is the current economic downturn has been caused by an out-of-control banking industry and an over dependence on depleting oil reserves. So, what does the government do? It spends £50 billion bailing out the banks, and billions more fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to secure oil reserves. Meanwhile, it says we cant afford to take the economic 'risk' of paying public sector workers the same as we did just a few years ago."
Principal Speaker Derek Wall also supports the strikers, saying: "I am proud that the Green Party is fully in support of today's action and that Greens nationwide are rallying to support Unison. It is all very well for Alistair Darling to call for pay 'restraint' but when inflation is rising at 3.8%, an offer of 2.45% is actually a pay cut. Hardworking public sector workers need to be paid properly; they should not be made to foot the bill for New Labour's economic failings."
At last weekend's conference of the Green Party Trade Union Group, which was held in Brighton, local Green MEP Caroline Lucas told delegates:
"The Green Party's record of championing Trade Union priorities, from defending public services from privatisation through to promoting a Living Wage, demonstrates that the Greens are the real party of social justice."
The Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert, specialises in employment and equality issues, and said: "I wholeheartedly support UNISON's call for fair pay for local Government workers. New research has found that public sector wages are around 30% lower than in the private sector and that is not beneficial for workers or for public services. As the cost of living increases public sector workers should not be expected to suffer disproportionately. Local government workers deserve a fair deal and that is why I am supporting the strike action on 16th and 17th July."
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Joseph Healy, the Green Party's Parliamentary Candidate for the Vauxhall Constituency today joined the picket lines in solidarity with Lambeth's local government workers who are striking over a government-imposed pay cut.
Across the country 600,000 local government workers - care assistants, refuse collectors, cleaners, teaching assistants and social workers - are taking industrial action because employers are demanding that they take a pay cut. The employers "final offer" amounted to just 2.45 per cent whilst food prices have risen 9 per cent in the last year and energy bills by 15 per cent.
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 Greater 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.
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 effectively 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 Lambeth 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."
Apologies for not getting back sooner. Unlike local authority employees, GLA Unison members are not involved in today's strike action and there is no industrial action taking place at City Hall.
However, in my role as a local councillor I have written to Heather Wakefield, Head of Local overnment Unison in support of their call for negotiations on this year's pay settlement to be reopened and an improved offer made, in line with her written request to councillors.
Cllr. Darren Johnson AM
Green Party Member
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
climate camp - networking group 14.07.2008 18:50 Climate Chaos Social Struggles Workers' Movements London
An invitation to the trade union movement to engage in a dialogue with the Camp for Action.
As you may be aware the Camp for Climate Action will be happening near Kingsnorth in Kent, august 3 -11th 2008. The camp is an open event to which all are welcome to attend and debate issues about how we can stop climate change. We will also explore practical examples of how we can live, work and take decisions together, in truly democratic and sustainable ways. We aim to shut down Kingsnorth power station on the 9th of August for one day. We want to clarify that this action is not against the workers at Kingsnorth, nor does it mean we think the UK coal industry should be shut down overnight. It means we want to show the seriousness of the threat both to humans and our environment, now and into the future.
This crisis affects the world’s poorest people first and hardest and is a social justice issue. We feel that we must take collective, political direct action to address it. We recognise the history of political attacks on the miners and the union movement and we firmly resist that. We recognise the need for jobs, viable communities and a strong trade union movement, and we want a decent, fair and long term deal for all, including miners, energy workers and their communities.
We believe we face a common enemy of short-termism, capitalism and the exploitation of people and nature that capitalism inevitably brings. Coal is currently the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and it is an industry that is going to have to respond to the climate crisis. We are against any proposal that would increase our carbon emissions, as a new power station at Kingsnorth would.
Extremely rapid reductions in emissions are necessary if we are not to watch millions suffer and die in the most preventable disaster the world has ever known. We know much hope surrounds ‘clean coal technology’, but we see a lot of ‘greenwash’ there too. ‘Clean coal’ means many different things and is an idea not a single technology.
We know many within the coal industry are pushing carbon capture and storage – CCS – and this is proposed for one part of the new Kingsnorth plant. It may offer solutions but on the scale required it is still only theoretical and will no doubt have many costs. Like many technical proposals its impact will depend on the political context it is used in. We are concerned that it does not marginalise solutions that could have a real impact today, like energy efficiency, renewables, local production, public transport etc. All of these could provide thousands of new jobs immediately, and help make our society healthier.
We don’t have a blueprint for the future but we do have a clear sense of the values which will guide it – environmental sustainability and social justice for all. We locate the roots of climate change within the ideas and practice of capitalism. Consequently we know that we cannot ‘solve’ climate change without addressing the way our world is run for private profit rather than social gain and for endless growth rather than satisfying needs. We have adopted the model of ‘Just Transition’, in which the needs of workers are paramount within the transition to a new economy: their views are central, there should be adequate retraining where required, there should be no loss incurred.
An increasing number of trade unions are adopting this model internationally. There will be ways we can make this transition protect, and benefit, workers and communities worldwide. Climate change poses a question about our economic and social system. It is in fact an opportunity.
The theft of resources, the inequality, the destruction of nature, the abandonment of communities unwanted by big business, the injustice, the poverty, the lack of a real say in our lives – all these can be addressed when we address climate change. As prices rise and people question the reasons for the instability, we will have welcome space to talk about capitalism, social justice and real democracy. It will be an opportunity for groups who were previously unaligned to work together. It will be an opportunity for us to realise the importance and excitement of collective action. It could and should offer the opportunity for the trade union movement to re invigorate itself. We know we should have made greater efforts to communicate with workers and unions at an earlier stage, and we apologise for that.
We hope this opportunity is now here and we warmly welcome a dialogue with all sectors over how we can move forward both fairly and sustainably. We know there is a proposal for a counter demonstration against the camp. We are concerned that this proposal could give the impression that we are on different sides and be seized upon by government and media to avoid talking about the real political issues we could be addressing. Such a division, real or not, could damage us both, whereas mutual respect and aid could help. We need to engage in a constructive dialogue about the way forward. To that effect we warmly offer to come to your branch or group to discuss these issues, and invite you to the Camp to do the same.
In solidarity, Networking group – Camp for Climate Action 2008 Contact us via email@example.com
Monday, 14 July 2008
At the recent Green Party Trade Union Group Conference Caroline Lucas argued that The Green Party has become the true champion of the Labour movement
"The Green Party's record of championing Trade Union priorities, from defending public services from privatisation through to promoting a Living Wage, demonstrates that the Greens are the real party of social justice,"
GPTU calls on Green councillors to demonstrate by supporting the Unison strike that Caroline Lucas’ words aren’t just rhetoric.
Go to http://www.unison.org.uk/ for more information.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
10-11am. Outside the P&B Old St offices - 211 Old St!
Pat is a union rep at the Old St office of call centre firm Pell & Bales, and has been a big part of building an active union that has campaigned successfully to save jobs and win a 15% pay rise. P&B workers make fundraising calls on behalf of major charities like Oxfam and UNICEF - but the company doesn't always treat staff ethically. Pat has been sacked for putting his name to a factual four sentence article in the Socialist Worker - see the article below - and many believe, in fact, for being an effective organiser. P&B is a small company that cares about its image. Protest can make a difference!
If you can, please also send a message of protest to Pell & Bales CEO Karl Holweger! Write to firstname.lastname@example.org Please cc: email@example.com to find out about our ongoing campaign
Support Pat as he goes into his appeal hearing - Tuesday, 10-11am, outside the Old St offices! Right by Old St tube, exit 7.
"Standing up for call centre staff" - 7 June 2008 - the article Pat has been fired for writing
A well-attended meeting of CWU union members at Pell and Bales, a call centre in Old Street, central London, launched a campaign to defend a fellow worker last week. The caller was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing following a complaint made about him during training. For asking some pertinent questions, he was accused of "playing to the crowd" and "scowling at the carpet". Many colleagues have signed a petition calling for the charges to be dropped.
Pat Carmody, CWU member
The council's Tory administration and senior officers have got it wrong. ("Strike won't stop meeting" Argus July 10). Chief Executive Alan McCarthy says there was no alternative other than to press ahead with a meeting of full council on July 17 - an official day of union action - as there was urgent business to attend to. He was wrong, and I told him so.
Providing there was all party agreement we could have held an 'urgency sub' meeting of council to agree the pressing items. This would have allowed a postponement of the July 17 meeting to another date. For the administration and the Tories to make light of councillors' genuine beliefs that workers should receive a fair living wage by simply riding roughshod over them is not acceptable. Green Councillors will join the picket lines in solidarity with staff, apart from the two members needed to propose and second a resolution offering support for workers' wage claims. Crossing a picket line is a matter of personal conscience no Greens will do it and we are told no Labour members will either.
We will have to wait to see where Tory and LibDem councillors stand. When it takes the highest paid council worker just over two and half hours to be paid what it takes the lowest paid all week to earn one cannot avoid thinking that top earners don't have as keen an eye as others on either their personal budgets or social justice.
Neither will it escape attention that by pressing ahead with the meeting the Tory administration can dodge answering difficult Green questions over key issues such as the Falmer Academy privatization, the cost of operating new council systems, and the distribution of neighbourhood renewal funding. We will continue to argue for fair pay for staff and fair treatment for the city and its residents, both inside and outside the council's chambers!
Cllr Keith Taylor Convenor, Green Party Councillors
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
It's time to fight, and it's time to win! by James Caspell, Green Party Member and Lambeth Unison Representative
So why should local government workers go on strike?
In the past year, the average household bill has gone up by £1,300. Food bills have gone up by 9 % and energy bills by 15%. Since 2004, food costs are up by 30%.
Our the employer is offering us a 2.45% "increase" - effectively a pay cut for the tenth year in a row. This means that someone in the same job, on the same pay scale ten years ago was effectively better off in 1998 than they are in 2008.
Local government workers also have the least pay, holiday entitlements, parental rights and sick leave in the public sector.
Some argue that to compare our pay cut with the astronomical bonuses that people are still 'earning' in the city - or executives at the BBC have just been awarded - is the "politics of envy", New Labour's favourite slogan in dismissing the pre-WWII levels of the UK's widening income inequality. It isn't. It's the politics of class.
Last year an extra £1 billion in efficiency savings were made above and beyond the Governments own targets on the back of the hard work of millions of public servants. It is not the case that the government doesn't have the money to award the 6% that Unison is asking for to "catch up and match up" with the pay cuts imposed over the last two years. Meanwhile, even the Governor of Bank of England has admitted that public sector pay increases are not causing inflation.
Only 10% of Unison's local government membership voted to accept the derisory offer currently on the table and whilst no one likes to forgo pay in the short term, workers stand to win up to ten times more financially than we will lose by taking 2 days of strike action.
The strength of the turnout is what will decide the result of the dispute and send a clear message to local govenrment employers on pay, but also demonstrate our strength and ability to win the fight on conditions and opposing privatisation.
We can win; the government is weak and other public sector unions are also striking over pay, building confidence across the movement. Elsewhere, the most militant unions are the most successful in furthering the interests of all workers - such as the RMT - and it is time local government workers learnt from our more active comrades in resisting constant neo-liberal attacks from Labour, Lib Dem and Tory administrations up and down the country.
Next week is an opportunity to say, "Enough is enough". It's time to fight, and it's time to win!
To introduce a 35 hour week along the lines of the French model.
What is the proposal?
To oblige employers to enter into collective agreements with their workforces where the normal working week averages no more than 35 hours over an agreed period, typically one year.
Voluntary overtime remains possible, but average total working time with overtime must not exceed over 48 hours over the period, and must be paid at a premium rate.
Hourly paid workers, especially those on the minimum wage, will be protected from any overall pay reduction caused by a reduction in working hours.
Arguments for the proposal.
This proposal addresses Britain’s long hours culture, where:
- 4 million work over 48 hours a week on average
- two thirds of them have not been asked, as required by law, to opt-out of the EU working time directive
- 60% of those working more than 48 hours say they want to work less
- full time UK employees work the longest average hours in Europe, 43.5 hours as against 38.2 in France and 39.9 in Germany
- long hours are damaging family life and causing stress and illness
- one in three workers don’t take all the holidays they are entitled to because of pressures at work.
Less work means more time for family life and childcare, for activity around the house like cooking and DiY, for life in our local communities and for self expression, sport, exercise, personal interests and leisure.
If unemployment rises, shorter hours will create more jobs; in France up to 500,000 new jobs were created.
Long hours culture particularly discriminates against women in the workplace, since they are less well placed if developing a career necessarily involves long hours, and places greater burdens upon them at home.
Productivity increases with shorter hours – it is higher in France and Germany. Workers are more alert and energetic, and work smarter rather than longer.
Employers will not be able to afford it, and it will damage the economy. There is no evidence of actual damage to the French economy. And some things are more important than work.
It is far too inflexible for small employers. Small employers would receive help to adapt, and they coped in France.
The need for collective agreements gives Trades Unions too much power. It is right that workers are protected by Trades Unions, and if the need for collective agreements gives them a boost that is a good thing.
The averaging provisions allow employers to demand too much flexibility, and some employers simply increase the intensity of work. That is why the detailed arrangements need to be the subject of proper collective agreements.
Suggestions for local action
Contact your local Trades Council to find out about campaigns about long hours in your area (contacts at http://www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/index.cfm?mins=405).
This is existing MfSS policy in WR344 which says ‘We are committed in the medium-term to a reduction in working hours to an average of 35 hours per week. The Green Party will enact legislation in order to bring about this change.’
The French 35 hour week was introduced in 2000 for firms with over 20 employees and in 2002 for smaller companies. It replaced a 39 hour limit. It was relaxed in 2005 in the private sector, to allow up to 48 hours, the EU Working time directive limit. President Sarkozy has opposed the 35 hour week in the past, but public opinion has recently forced him to backtrack. Its effects are widely contested.
The UK has an opt-out to the EU Working time Directive permitting employees to agree to work more than 48 hours. The principal TUC campaign on long hours focuses on ending the opt-out, which we also oppose (WR343).
For facts on long hours see the TUC website at http://www.tuc.org.uk/work_life/tuc-11005-f0.cfm. Contact Pete Murry of the Green Party Trade Union Group on firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Facts from TUC at http://www.tuc.org.uk/work_life/index.cfm?mins=474&minors=474
 An estimate from http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2001/07/feature/fr0107170f.htm, though the extent of job creation is very contested.
 See http://www.triplet.com/50-10_employment/50-20_workingtime.asp.
 See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4373167.stm.
 See for example http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,555655,00.html.
 See http://www.tuc.org.uk/itsabouttime/endoptout.cfm?theme=itsabouttime.
Monday, 7 July 2008
First of all, let me thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today, and give you a perspective on welfare reform from the viewpoint of the claimant.
If I can just introduce myself – I’ve been working in the disability sector since 1997, and currently chair the policy group of the Disability Benefits Consortium. The DBC consists of over 25 national organisations that represent the needs of people why rely on disability benefits, providing an information-sharing resource as well as a campaigning function. It is this latter capacity that we have been involved in the ongoing programme of welfare reform over the past four years or so, lobbying ministers and meeting with civil servants.
When I first came to Cardiff in the dying years of the Thatcher regime, it was, I have to say, a city showing signs of neglect, with a future based more on hope than expectation. Twenty years on, and the transformation is remarkable – Cardiff has become a modern European capital city with a future to look forward to. But the success of Cardiff must not be allowed to mask the deep scars that remain in many parts of South Wales, scars left by deindustrialization that mark not only the landscape, but the communities and the people that live in them. The policies of successive governments have neglected too many people, leaving them to lives of poverty and exclusion, meaning that pockets of South Wales have some of the highest rates of Incapacity benefit claimants in the UK.
The aims of the ongoing process of welfare reform, we are told, is to give people the opportunity and the practical tools to lift themselves out of poverty and into paid work; And I expect that we’ll hear a lot about the theoretical debate behind welfare reform today – the ideological and scientific approaches and the vision of a flexible, engaging and unified welfare system. I’m here to look at the practical side of the equation, and show the gulf that is emerging between theory and practice – a gulf that too many of the people I represent may fall into.
I’m sure we all recall the clarion cry at the heart of reform - the oft-repeated promise to ‘get one million people off Incapacity Benefit and into work’.
This would be achieved by striking a new balance between rights and responsibilities – a ‘something for something’ culture wherein those who wish to claim from the state have to fulfil a series of duties not incumbent upon others. These include, for most claimants, engaging in work-related activity in the understanding that failure to do may result in the application of (I believe unnecessary) sanctions and a reduction in benefit. In exchange for this, the government is has promised better support, both financially and in terms of help in getting back to work. These, then, are the government’s conditions for conditionality – the carrot by which they justify the stick. We give you more, but we shall expect more from you in return. This, then, is the new politics of disability
Being immersed in the detail of this complex reform over such a period of time can make it difficult to select areas of particular concern, but with so much of the programme already in place, waiting to be launched onto a largely unsuspecting public, I’d like to concentrate on three issues that will affect not merely those people who will be likely to claim Employment and Support Allowance, but also those who are in contact with them, including JCP staff.
The issues are:
The Work Capability Assessment and its effects.
The rates at which ESA will be paid.
Employment services and long-term claimants.
The Work Capability Assessment
The Work Capability Assessment (or WCA) is the name of the new gateway for ESA, and its introduction will have major ramifications for new and current claimants alike. It’s predecessor, the Personal Capability Assessment was widely rated as being one of the most stringent gateways to disability benefits in Western Europe. Well, it just got tougher.
There are welcome improvements. The greater understanding of the barriers faced by people with mental illness. learning difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a step forward, as is the combination of mental and physical disabilities. However, pilot studies undertaken by the DWP have shown that there will be a significant disallowance rate – one in eight of those who would have received IB will not receive ESA.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that the Government’s target of getting one million people off Incapacity Benefit is starting to look a lot easier.
The most obvious ramification is that there will be people with long-term health conditions and disabilities who will be denied access to ESA. The Government believes that there will be 60,000 more failed applications for ESA per annum than there are for IB. That’s up to 60,000 people every year who will have to claim JSA or Income Support instead.
A further issue concerns those people who are currently claiming IB, but who will either be migrated across to ESA in time, or will be subjected to the new WCA as the gateway to their current benefit. It can be assumed that the 12 per cent disallowance rate can be applied to these people, too. Currently, we have over 2.7 million people claiming incapacity benefits – and crudely, 12 per cent of 2.7 million is 324,000. If the WCA were applied immediately to the current Incapacity Benefit caseload, the government would already be more than halfway to its target.
This does rather suggest that there is a policy gulf between getting a million people off IB and getting them into work.
Now, what happens to those people who had been claiming IB, but are found to be ineligible for ESA? The answer, effectively given by Lord McKenzie of Luton in answer to a question by Baroness Greengross last week is ‘nothing’ – they can apply for JSA and Income Support, and can access such support as these benefits provide. According to the Secretary of State James Purnell, these people are now ‘not disabled’ and therefore do not require specialist help. These people, who had been found to be disabled have been magically recategorized as ‘able bodied’, merely by the application of the new assessment.
So, for these people, many of whom will have been out of work for some time, having been on long-term IB with no support in finding work, life will change a great deal. They will have to engage with the harsher regime of life on JSA, but they will not be eligible to receive the support that ESA had appeared to promise. There will be no tailored interventions, no condition management and no return-to-work payments for these people – and given the success rates of JSA, particularly with people aged over 40 with a poor health record, there will be little chance of finding work.
Furthermore, these people will be poorer. And as the first group earmarked for migration is younger people, this may well mean the further impoverishment of young families. For some people, the reality of welfare reform appears to differ markedly from its promise.
The rates at which ESA will be paid.
What about those who are deemed eligible for Employment and Support Allowance?
First of all, they will have to go through a thirteen week assessment phase, wherein they will receive a rate equivalent to that of Job Seekers Allowance. At the end of this period, successful claimants will not have their benefit backdated to the start of the claim, irrespective of how obvious their need might be.
The majority of successful claimants will be placed on the element of ESA that sees the claimant having to fulfil certain conditions – for today’s purposes, I shall refer to it as the ‘conditional’ group – these people will have to engage in work-related activity in order to continue to receive their benefit. A smaller minority of people with more complex barriers will be placed in the ‘support’ category – it having been recognised that they cannot reasonably be expected to engage with the world of work. How will these two groups of people fare under the new system?
In a letter to the 100 MPs with the highest number of Incapacity Benefit claimants on the 3rd of January 2006, then Secretary of State John Hutton promised reform that would “give genuine protection to those who truly cannot work”, and stated that we should not accept “a system that perpetuates hardship”. In the foreword to the Green Paper , he further stated that the welfare state must “focus its energy on tackling poverty and social exclusion”.
As well as these, repeated assurances were given by Ministers on the floors of both Houses that the main phase rate of ESA for those in the conditional group would be “paid above the present long-term IB rate”.
How do these promises measure up?
When the benefit rates were announced in March of this year, they were identical to the recently uprated long-term rates of Incapacity Benefit. The argument for this apparent volte-face being that the statements made were correct, in that the current ESA rates are higher than the rate of IB was at the time. However, we believe that whilst this may be technically correct, the fact that the basic rate of ESA will be paid at the same rate as the long-term rate of Incapacity Benefit currently undermines the argument that claimants will be getting ‘something for something’.
There are other discrepancies, too.
Calculations made by Disability Alliance show that whilst the introduction of ESA may benefit many people financially in the short term, their long-term prospects are bleaker. In fact, only single people in the support group will be better-off in the long-term – and some of those will actually be worse off in the short-term. Everyone else loses, relative to IB, over time. I shan’t explore the labyrinthine details, but these are the general facts.
For most single people in the work-related activity group, after the first year, their income will be £1.85 per week lower than it would have been on IB.
For many couples in the work-related activity group, after the first year, their income will be £12.85 per week lower than it would have been on IB.
For many couples in the support group their income will be £7.85 per week lower than it would have been on IB, for the entire duration of their claim. It’s also worth pointing out that this includes couples who are claiming on the grounds of terminal illness.
I think it’s time that these discrepancies were addressed and remedied. It seems strange that it should be couples who miss out the most – at a time when the government admits that it is failing to meet its challenging and laudable child poverty targets, that the welfare system seems to be driving some of the poorest families deeper into poverty.
Employment training and provision
It’s not my role here to debate the political ins and outs of contracting out the provision of employment support for disabled people. My personal view is that in nearly all cases, excepting only those where highly specialist provision is required, Job Centre Plus does as good, if not better a job than any generalist employment provider could hope to.
However, we are already seeing problems with the way that Pathways to Work is being rolled out across the country, in the way that contracts are written and subcontracts decided. Yes, Pathways has some excellent elements – return to work credit, condition management, tailored action plans, and we are seeing a more flexible attitude being adopted towards permitted work. All of these are good. However, none of them require the intervention of the private sector to make them work.
What concerns me more, though, is the ways in which placing support in the hands of the market will impact upon those people who face the greatest barriers to return to work. The impact, if you will, of economies of scale on the labour market.
Put simply, it does not cost the same amount to get all disabled people work-ready. People with mild musculo-skeletal conditions, or living with stress, debilitating though these conditions are, will not require as much support as, say, a profoundly deaf person who only uses British Sign Language to communicate. It can take a significant investment in terms of time and money to get a BSL-user close enough to the labour market for them to stand a realistic chance of getting a job. The same will go for blind people with no light perception, people with severe mental health disorders, acute learning difficulties or combinations of multiple conditions and barriers.
Now, put yourself in the place of the private contractor. With payment by results, and the only valid result being the numbers of people into work, where are you going to expend your resources?
The answer is obvious. You concentrate your resources on those already close to the labour market, confident that they will requite relatively little investment, and that a plentiful supply of new recruits for the new reserve army of labour is always available.
And it’s not just about cost. At RNID, we invest in getting profoundly deaf people into work, and we know better than most that you can train someone, support them, skill them, lead them to the employer’s door and ring the bell. But that doesn’t mean the door will open, or the candidate be ushered inside.
So again, it makes less sense to plunge resources into those furthest away from the labour market, as the labour market itself is least likely to engage with them. The system appears to disincentivize engaging with those people who need the most support, and instead reduces Pathways to Work to a simple unit / cost equation and the tawdry spectacle of spread-betting on the labour market.
Our fear is that the net result of this will see those people with the least chance of finding work being left on the margins of support – fulfilling their responsibilities, but without the realization of their rights. And for the majority, the longer they remain on benefits, the less money they will have compared to the IB system. It would appear as though reform will function to penalize some people on the basis that their employment service providers have failed them.
In conclusion, then, it seems to me that many of the promises that lay at the heart of the welfare reform programme have still yet to materialize. Instead of being supported off benefit and into work,
Many people will be thrown off one benefit and onto another, with little help to find work as a consequence.
Many people will actually be worse off under ESA than they would have been under the current arrangements.
Many people will not receive the support and assistance they need to gain and retain paid work.
I leave you with the question then, as to how the government’s stated aims can be met by these reforms. Whether the redrafting of the social contract between the state and the disabled individual strikes a fair balance between rights and responsibilities, or whether the government itself is failing in its own responsibilities to provide the very assistance, protection and care that it promised.
Saturday, 5 July 2008
“Can Greens and Trade Unions work together?”
12 July 2008
Friends' Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton, Sussex BN1 1AF (10 minutes from Brighton BR)
TEL (01273) 770258 website http://www.brightonquakers.co.uk/
Caroline Lucas MEP,
Tony Kearns (CWU),
Brighton Unison Speaker
a.Migration/ Population policy and International relations (J.Healy)
b.Future strategies for links between Greens and TUs (P. MacCafferty)
c.Disability rights against workfare, (A.Wheatley)
Admission £8 / £4 concs
Gptu contact email@example.com
Date: Sat, Jul 5, 2008 at 9:44 AM
Subject: Thanks for Your Support and Lobby Appeal Hearing Tues 15 July
Brothers and Sisters
My heartfelt thanks on behalf of myself and the CWU Pell and Bales Section to all of you that have protested against my victimisation. Our well-attended monthly meeting last week unanimously agreed to continue the campaign to reverse management's decision to sack me, a decision clearly motivated by their desire to halt our successful union drive.
The letters of protest have been fantastic. It means that Pell and Bales management know that their attacks on our union are not going unnoticed and it also shows workers in the call centre that there are serious forces outside of us involved in this fight and this does raise their confidence. But we could do with more, so please encourage fellow workers andfriends to send them:
Please send a message of protest to Pell & Bales CEO Karl Holweger!
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org Please cc:email@example.com
Send messages of solidarity to Pat - firstname.lastname@example.org
I would ask at this stage that you hold off on contacting the charities directly as yet. We will advise you as to when we would like to you flood the likes of Cancer Research, Oxfam, etc with letters.If you have done so already, not to worry.
My appeal hearing is on Tuesday 15th July.We will be holding a lobby outside Pell and Bales offices on this day:please bring union banners and delegations if you can: details are:
DEFEND PAT CARMODY - DEFEND THE UNION
LOBBY PAT'S APPEAL HEARING
TUESDAY 15th JULY FROM 10.30am211 Old Street EC1V 9NR
exit 7 - Old St tube
Hope to see you there.If you need leaflets, etc, please contact Tom or Michelle belo
Thanks again and see you soon
Pat Carmody CWU Capital Branch Pell and Bales Section Secretary
If you can support the campaign by receiving news, petitioning, doing a collection, or anything else, please email email@example.com call Communication Worker Union organisers Tom on 07894 461713 orMichelle on 07872 816747
Friday, 4 July 2008
Read the small print: Lord Darzi’s report pave the way for Labour to charge for NHS care.
Lord Darzi, the unelected health minister, has signalled that Labour will continue to dismantle and privatise the NHS delivery system, its staff and services – handing taxpayers’ funds to multinational companies, and remodelling the service along the lines of US healthcare.
It is all a far cry from their 1997 manifesto pledge: “Our fundamental purpose is simple but hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working cooperatively for patients not a commercial business driven by competition.”
Markets introduce new costs that do not occur in integrated public services: billing, invoicing, marketing and profits. All these divert resources and funds away from the service, creating enormous inefficiency. So what is the government up to?
Darzi provides the clearest sign yet that Labour is planning to introduce charges for healthcare, crossing the final rubicon of NHS privatisation - its funding base.
The commercial sector, unlike NHS public services, has market freedoms that the public sector does not - the freedom to levy charges and restrict care, and to downgrade or deregulate staff terms and conditions. The commercial sector’s first duty is to shareholders and risks must be managed either by reducing staff wages and terms, cherrypicking profitable patients and treatments, or by ensuring that it is not faced with the enormous costs of unpredictable care.
Co-payments and top-up insurance were alien terms a decade ago: they are direct imports from the US healthcare industry. Today they trip off ministers’ tongues. Contrast this with the NHS Plan 2000, which stated that “user charges are unfair and inequitable in they increase the proportion of funding from the unhealthy, old and poor compared with the healthy, young and wealthy.”
In theory, government cannot prevent the private sector from selling health insurance and top up services. In practice, the new providers of healthcare have seen the political unacceptability of introducing charges too early, although the boundaries between what is public and what is private are blurred.
So the Darzi report, instead of renouncing charges, paves the way for them. First, it trails the idea of a NHS constitution which will set out rights for care. In doing so it introduces the notion that there will no longer be NHS open-ended care according to need, following in the footsteps of NHS dentistry and long term care. The constitution reflects the current attempt to redefine NHS care into a basic minimum package. For example, in the newly privatised general practice agreements, the government has fragmented previously integrated services into core, additional and enhanced services. It has ended the open ended duty of care, and introduced the notion of time limits and defined entitlement. How long before the government allows the commercial sector to define a basic package of NHS care, beyond which everything else is paid for and charged for through top ups and co-payments? That, after all, is the American way.
The report also proposes introducing personal budgets. There is no logic to these because individual budgets pass risk down to the patient. But the idea, of a sort of portable voucher system, is a Republican one: patients can get so much care and top up and carry the risks.
Darzi does not renounce charges: “We will ensure that the programme fully supports the principles of the NHS as a comprehensive service, free at the point of use,” he says. But this contrasts with the 1977 NHS Act, which says “services so provided shall be free of charge except in so far as the making and recovery of charges is expressly provided for by or under any enactment, whenever passed.”
Labour has crossed its final Rubicon. The NHS Plan 2000 allowed the break-up and commercialisation of NHS services because the government claimed it didn’t matter how services were delivered so long as they were publicly funded. Now tax-based funding is to be undermined, and that means an end to universal coverage.
Universal coverage is not discussed by Darzi, and nor is equitable redistribution on the basis of need. Instead most of his report is dedicated to quality. This is the American way. The US jusitifies the denial of care to 50 million of its people by focusing attention on quality of providers, not access or response to need.
The problem for the government is that no country has a for-profit sector delivering universal healthcare, and it has no evidence to support the policy of a market in healthcare. The Darzi report is simply a glib advertising campaign on behalf of the healthcare industry and a new generation of greedy healthcare entrepreneurs. What of the losers? The hidden hand of the market renders invisible the old, the poor, the chronically sick and the long-term disabled. But as the winners see their FTSE100 stocks rise, the English will know what it is not to have freedom from fear.
Thursday, 3 July 2008
That was a great help to me last year when I was Green Party of England & Wales Disability Spokesperson, and around the year 2000 when I helped a Health Studies student friend with course-related news updating. A great reason for ordering the print copy is that letters page content does not appear on the Web. As an example, I note, that there is a lot of confusion regarding what constitutes a 'learning difficulty' as opposed to a 'learning disability'. Mencap -- an organisation whose name reverberates with 'cap in hand' or 'handicap' mentality -- says that dyslexia, blindness and deafness do not constitute 'learning disabilities'
By contrast, using the social model of disability, a Sense spokesperson wrote the Community Care letters page pointing out that Downs' Syndrome -- labelled a 'learning disability by Mencap -- dyslexia, deafness, blindness, and autism are all impairments that have a bearing on learning. When reasonable adjustments are not made to accommodate the person with the condition -- eg, alternative formats for information communication -- disability occurs. Yet another correspondent pointed out that Mencap's use of the term 'learning disability' is equivalent to the American use of 'mental retardation'.
Alan WheatleyDisability spokesperson for London Green Party