Friday, 24 April 2015

oxford mayday rally

International Workers Day
March and Rally
Saturday 2 May 2015
Assemble: 12 noon Manzil Way, Cowley Road
Rally: 2pm Bonn Square
Speakers include: Megan Dobney (secretary, South & East Region Trades Union Congress), Roger McKenzie, UNISON assistant general secretary), Liz Peretz (Campaign to Close Campsfield), Living Wage campaign, Palestine solidarity

Trade Union Rights – Living Wage – Public Services, Not Private Profit – End Child Poverty – Solidarity Not Racism – International Workers Solidarity

Today marks two years since 1100 workers died in the Rana Plaza -

Workers and their families have still not received adequate compensation and UK high street brands are undermining efforts to improve factory safety.
To mark the anniversary we organised a walking tour of the responsible brands, through Britain’s most famous shopping area – Oxford Street. We wanted to show that behind the glossy windows – some high street brands have the power to transform the lives of the people who make the clothes we love to wear.  Yet they’ve dragged their feet.
Please share this video and stand with workers demanding safety. 

Watch the video

Bangladeshi workers are organising to demand a living wage and safety at work, yet they face frequently violent intimidation and harassment. The workers face a long road to justice – it won’t be won overnight, but when we stand together we can win.

Together we can demand accountability from an industry that is making billions in profit from exploitation.
We can ensure no one pays the ultimate price for a cheap t-shirt.
Thank you,                                                         
Owen Espley
Sweatshops Campaigner,
War on Want

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Barnet UNISON confirm dates of first wave of strike action

Barnet UNISON Press Release: 17 April 2015
Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 17/04/2015 - 09:27
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Barnet UNISON confirm dates of first wave of strike action
Following the announcement last week that 87% of UNISON members working for Barnet “easyCouncil” voted YES  to strike action a consultation with our reps and members has produced a timetable for strike action starting with two days of strike action on:  
Thursday 30 April and Friday 1 May.
The Trades Dispute with London Borough of Barnet is over staff remaining in employment with Barnet Council. The dispute will involve a range of of workers for example coach escorts, drivers, social workers, occucpational therpaists, Library workers, children & family centre workers, street cleaning & refuse workers, all of whom have made it clear they want to remain employees of the Council.
UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said: This dispute is all about how strongly our members feel about wanting to remain Council employees. They don’t want to work for big multi nationals who will quickly dump the staff to another contractor if they are not making enough profitwhich appears to be happening to 3,000 workers in Staffordshire. They don’t want to work for a company that won’t pay the London Living Wage. They don’t want to work for a company that uses zero hours contracts. They don’t want to work for a company that will take jobs out of the community they serve. They want to to work for Barnet Council and remain directly accountableto the residents of Barnet. One of our members has written and produced a music campaign video called “The easyCouncil Loco-motion” which pretty much sums up the mood of our members take a look here
Notes to Editors.
Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on 07738389569 or 0208 359 2088 or
1. Union officer 'flabbergasted' by 3,000 jobs transfer
2. Disappearing Council – short animation
3. “The easyCouncil Loco-motion”

UCU London Retired Members Branch Defend Lifelong Learning & agm

Defend Lifelong Learning day 25 April12:30pm Saturday 25 April

London Region UCU has organised a demonstration in defence of lifelong learning on 

25 April  12.30pmassembling at Lewisham and Southwark College, 25 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF, at 12:30pm and marching on City Hall.

UCU has joined an unprecedented coalition to condemn the proposed cuts to the English lifelong learning budget of 24%.
The branch banner will be at the demonstration, come and join us.

Branch AGM 30 april 2-4pm at the union office in Carlow Street NW1 7LH, nearest tube Mornington Crescent.

We shall be electing the branch officers and committee. Nominations in advance to the Secretary ( or at the meeting.
Please send me any items for the agenda.
    All retired academic staff are welcome (as well as those about to retire).
Download directions to UCU's Carlow Street office
Copyright © 2015 UCU London Retired Members Branch, All rights reserved.
UCU London Retired Members Branch - members and supporters

Our mailing address is:
UCU London Retired Members Branch
53 Fladgate Road
Leytonstone, London E11 1LX
United Kingdom


UCU London Retired Members Branch Defend Lifelong Learning &  agm

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Labour Party has never lived up to its ‘socialist’ dream


Jen Izaakson and Ross Speer       20 April 2015 The Labour Party has never lived up to its ‘socialist’ dream2015-04-20T19:24:46+00:00    CommentEngland & WalesGreen PartiesScotland     1 Comment
This article is part of a ‘Green vs Labour’ series on Bright Green. Here, Jen Izaakson and Ross Speer reply to James McAsh‘s argument that socialists should work within the Labour Party.

Labour’s 1945 manifesto
The efforts of the Labour left over the past five years have been huge, but of little avail.
The project of transforming Labour lies in tatters. Despite concerted pressure, the Miliband leadership has duly fallen in to line with the establishment consensus: austerity, privatisation and attacks on immigration. Assaults on its union links, compounded by a secular decline in membership and the crushing of Party democracy, has left Labour sustained only by myth, nostalgia, and an apparent lack of alternatives. The day has long passed when it could be considered a plausible strategy to try and claim the Labour Party for the left.
The reality is that the Labour Party has never been the party of the left that our contemporaries sometimes want to believe it to have been. From the Fabians, to Anthony Crosland and the Revisionists of the 1950s and 60s, to the Blairites of today, Labour has always struggled with its identity and purpose: a party of class or a party of nation? Repeatedly, the question has been resolved in favour of the latter. Each time the Labour Party fails to do what socialists suppose it should, and what, at least in the past, it claimed it would do, a left response emerges and seems to make some headway.
Disillusionment with the Wilson governments was met with the rise of Bennism. Anger at Blairism has been partially dissipated by the ‘reclamation’ attempts of Owen Jones, Len McCluskey and others. But with each iteration the challenge from the left becomes weaker, more muted, and less ambitious. Occasional signs of hope, even the odd victory, serve to continue the charade. The trend, however, is in the in the wrong direction. Dogmatic subservience to the Labour Party is dressed up as a clever tactical manoeuvre, yet it owes more to an inability to let go of the past than it does to calculated reason. Their electoral strategy is to obtain the votes of the extra-Labour Party left by moralising and browbeating. With judgement day looming this is the only approach open to them, given that they have no significant record of success to point to inside the Party. But preaching will not cut it this time. We have come to a point at which socialists must take a stand and say they’ve had enough: we will no longer be guilt-tripped into supporting a disgraceful right-wing party just because it entertains some increasingly tenuous links with the trade unions.
The phenomenon of ‘Labourism’ – that dogged obsession with the Labour Party that has beset generations of socialists – is not new. Ever since the ascendancy of the Fabians, the Labour Party has been dominated and led not by the working class, but by a timid reforming intelligentsia. From that point on the Labour left was, as Tom Nairn observed in 1964, “destined to become a left wing permanently, necessarily in rebellion against Fabian mediocrity—but unable to formulate and develop coherently this revolt, intellectually empty, paralysed inside the larger body of Labourism, a permanent minority opposition lacking the resources to assume hegemony of the movement in its turn.” From the outset the Labour left was subordinated to its authoritarian right, and its position has never much moved from there since. At momentary conjunctures it has broken through – 1945, 1960, 1983. Each glimpse proved fleeting.
The transformation of the Labour Party into the B-team of British capitalism, from popular movement to electoral machine, was slow but sure. In accepting the strictures laid out for it by Britain’s business class the Labour Party long ago nullified itself as any sort of threat to corporate interests, and in doing so abolished any possibility of being a vehicle for the left. Its vision of democracy became fundamentally colored by the image of people (‘voters’) loyally trooping out on Election Day, and being quiescent on every other. When they refused, the Labour Party knew which side it was on: and it was not theirs.
What McAsh says he wants is a party of the labour movement. What McAsh has – and will only ever have in the Labour Party – is an instrument well-honed in its task of channeling any dynamism shown by this movement in to the stifling and dangerous conformism of the ballot box. The Labour Party has never lived up the dream, and consequently the term ‘reclamation’ is valuable only for its myth-making qualities, not its accuracy. We are relegated merely to trying to claim it. How many times must we fall before we face the fact that it is unreformable? Reliving past failures is not a demonstration of tactical nous. At some point something has to give, lest we spend the next fifty years caught in the trap that the Labour left has been complicit in creating. Socialists might be solid believers in second chances, but even we cannot be so generous as to provide another fifty years of good graces.
When Labour chose to detach itself from its working class base it also detached itself from any sense ofpurpose.  The Labour Party no longer enjoys deep links with the class that birthed it, and consequently it does not possess the structures that might once have offered the possibility of altering its course. The Labour Party we confront is constructed around an institutional hostility to the left. Nearly always the dominant narrative throughout its history, its worst excesses could, in the past, at least be restrained. The Party’s long civil war resulted in a decisive victory for the right. Perhaps nowhere is this triumph of nation over class presently clearer than in its visceral dismissals of the SNP.  In a sorry advance on its spiteful antics in Tower Hamlets, the Labour Party has chosen to effectively dissolve itself north of the border. The refusal to commit to ‘lock David Cameron out of Downing Street’ is now culminating in the increasingly pathetic figure of Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and veteran parliamentarian who faces being unseated by 20-year old SNP upstart Mhairi BlackEd Miliband would sooner unleash the Tories on the people of Scotland then he would cede to the demand of unilateral disarmament, thereby endangering the capacity of the British state to engage in mass murder.
The stock response of an impotent Labour left – when they have anything to say about this at all – is incredulous admonishment that ordinary people would have the cheek to vote for a party other than Labour as and when it becomes available for them to do so. If their complaint that the SNP is also not a socialist party is surely true then it merely serves as a damning indictment of the present state of the Labour Party, that they can be outflanked on the gaping chasm to their left with such breezy effortlessness. Moderate spending increases are hardly the stuff of a socialist wishlist, but the Labour Party has become so immersed in its warped right-wing caricature of reality that even this is barely thinkable from within its ranks. The Labour left has not even managed to propel rail nationalisation – a solidly popular policy by any account – on to the agenda, McAsh’s claim that “baby-steps” have been made on the issue notwithstanding.
What we both want is a socialist party. The Labour left cannot even deliver a social democratic one.When Rachel Reeves is not in full flow, it is almost possible to believe that the Miliband Labour Party has reached the giddy heights of social liberalism. This in spite of apparently favourable conditions for the left, a position of strength, both in terms of raw votes and of Labour’s financial dependence, as well as the election of the trade union backed candidate to the leadership.

Left parties across the UK are taking up the real mantle of progress
It is easy enough, at election time, to tell the principled socialist, for they still exist inside the Labour Party in droves, from the slavish loyalist. The former will be hoping and wishing for Labour to look left to form a coalition after May 7th, however difficult Miliband has now made that task. The latter will spend the next few weeks degenerating in to a series of shrill attacks on the Greens and the nationalist parties, the organisations that have caused them considerable embarrassment by having risen so rapidly from obscurity to put forward the type of program that the Labour left has been unable to present since 1983. The Greens and their allies in Plaid Cymru and the SNP, whatever reservations one might justifiably maintain about these parties, are proof enough that it is now considerably easier to construct a left-wing project from outside the Labour Party than it is within it.
The slavish loyalists may now be lost to us, and will likely choose, whatever the weather, to keep themselves locked in the prison alongside the Blairites. With those that have not let their socialist principles become overridden by appeals to ‘tactics’, we hope that after this election they will plot their exit from the sinking ship and join us in constructing a coalition of the radical left from the remnants of three decades of defeats.
*Jennifer Izaakson is a member of the Green Party and an SNP/Plaid Cymru supporter. Ross Speer is not.

Monday, 20 April 2015


MAY DAY 2015
Assemble Clerkenwell Green 12.00
Rally at Trafalgar Square from 14.20
Speakers including –
JOHN HILARY War on Want;
Joint Chairs – Eve Turner GLATUC/Tony Lennon SERTUC
Celebrate May Day
fight austerity – fight TTIP – fight racism
Green Party TU Group stall in Trafalgar Square bring GP BANNERS ON THE MARCH

With the new non-policing arrangements now in London we need lots of stewards to make sure the event goes smoothly.

If you can assist contact the chief steward Mick Houghton -

May Day needs donations to cover its costs - we need to raise £8500.
Help make sure that May Day can be celebrated in London - make our voices heard.
Donations can be sent
(cheques made out to London May Day) Organising Committee or LMDOC) LMDOC, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD
or can be made directly to the account – LMDOC A/C 59070104 – Sort Code 08-02-28.

Friday, 17 April 2015

“show culture some love” campaign

acknowledgements to Sue Tibbles 

 Dear Supporter,

As you know, the “show culture some love” campaign is encouraging people to
engage with candidates in the forthcoming General Election regarding the
position of the party they represent in relation to issues of importance in
the arts & culture sector.

We are pleased, therefore, to pass on details of a hustings meeting that
has been organised by the Equity North and East London General Branch. The
meeting will take place on 21 April in the Park Theatre, Clifton
Terrace, London N4 3JP between 2.30 and 4.30pm 4.30pm.

Entry to the event is *free* – but you need to apply for a ticket via:

With best wishes,

Tom Taylor
SERTUC Creative &Leisure Industries Committee

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Social Murder, Health and Safety, and Trade Unions

This is a blog for my musings on Green campaigns and Trade Union activity in and around Bristol as well as the wider political scene nationally.
Social Murder, Health and Safety, and Trade Unions
Early photograph of the last mass Chartist meeting of 150,000 at Kennington Common to deliver their final petition, allegedly signed by 6 million, 1848

The Chartists were the first mass working class movement in the world. They had local groups across the country; organised petitions signed by millions, and held mass demonstrations attended by hundreds of thousands in a time with much more limited communication networks and in an extremely repressive atmosphere.

Their strength came from the general revulsion at the extremely pronounced levels of injustice and exploitation inherent in the early factory system. The average working day was in excess of 12 hours, often in cramped workshops with few breaks and no health and safety standards. The employment of children was widespread. This practice came under increasing criticism from the 1780s but it wasn’t until 1833 that effectively enforced legislation was brought in to regulate child labour.
Boys working in a textiles mill

The 1833 act only outlawed children under the age of 9 (except in the silk industry) from working, and limited them to working 8 hours a day till they were 14 (and then 12 hours till they were 18). Workers received abject poverty pay, had no weekends or holidays, no maternity leave or sick pay or any real rights at all.  After a long day they returned home to squalid slum housing to subsist off of terrible diet of the cheapest food. As in the less wealthy countries of the world today (where the majority of our cheap mass manufactured goods are produced) rates of accidents, injuries and mortality were appallingly high.

The Chartists termed the tens of thousands killed and maimed in the all-pervasive industrial accidents of their era ‘Social Murder’. These were the thousands unnecessarily killed each year by a society structured to pursue profit no matter the human (or environmental) cost. Thankfully, due largely to the efforts of past generations organising in their workplaces, communities and in political parties, we now work in far safer and more humane working environments.

But even today in the UK around 1,500 people die in largely avoidable accidents in the workplace. A further 50,000 die prematurely every year as a result of long term I’ll health acquired at work. Many more are seriously injured. In my branch of UNISON (representing around 1,500 people) sadly in this last year alone one of our members has been left permanently disabled and another with serious long term health issues.

According to our Health and Safety officer Mark, both of these incidents were caused by actions worse than negligent on the part of management.  The drive to cut costs by minimising legislation and cutting corners, that can leave workers seriously disabled or worse, makes this kind of behaviour increasing likely in the UK today.

Rates of industrial accidents have been gradually rising over the last few years as both Health and Safety regulation and the budget of the agency enforcing them have been cut by the Coalitions.  For years now right wing comics and TV personalities – like Clarkson – have demonized health and safety and turned it into a joke. This works in much the same way that media demonization campaigns have paved the way for cuts to the wider welfare state in general. The way health and safety discourses are conducted – couched in the terms of the names and dates of the legislative framework that created it – can be tedious. But it is an extremely important part of workplace safety and the rights that the labour movement has won us over generations of struggle.

Whilst sectors of the media denigrate health and safety legislation, and the coalition government carries out savage cut, employers are going on the offensive. Bristol made national news when revelation of the extensive use of a black list of health and safety stewards and activists by leading Bristol construction companies came to light. To maximise profits by undercutting health and safety standards at least 3,214 health and safety activists (ordinary people concerned about their welfare at work) were victimized and had their ability to work and provide themselves with a limiting severely curtailed.  The list most famously was in use on the construction of Cabot Circus.

We don’t have to look to the past to see how the all-consuming drive to profit inherent in our economic system, when not tapered by strong unions and health and safety legislation, leads to misery. Our contemporary world is full of depressing evidence. The working conditions in the parts of the world where most of the Wests cheap manufactured goods are produced are atrocious. Rates of injury and death are shockingly high and reminiscent of our early industrial past. Often adults and children work side by side in appalling conditions.

We don’t like to think about this blood involved in the production of our cheap consumables.  Occasionally workplace conditions are so despicable an ‘accident’ of such awful magnitude happens and pierces the veil of silence carefully constructed around it.   As in 2013 when over 1100 people were killed and a further 2500 injured in Rana Plaza Bangladesh when a sweatshop producing goods for a consortium of western companies collapsed. Just before this disaster the building had been deemed safe twice by inspectors working on behalf of Primark.
Rana Plaza just after its collapse in 2013

We may not like to think about these extreme levels of exploitation and death inherent in the international trade system; but the role of western multinationals in setting up this very system to supply our domestic consumption patterns is central and makes us all partly responsible. Rana Plaza is a case in point. In the wakes of the disaster the International Trade Union movement created and signed an accord on minimum safety standards in the garment industries of Bangladesh and Cambodia.

So far only three American owned factories have signed up. We see the violence inherent in the system flare up as Western Corporation repressively extract resources all across the global south. Indigenous leaders are murdered as they try to protect their lands from invasive oil drilling. Workers striking for better wages and conditions are brutalised by police and private guards. The Marikmana massacre of late 2012 is the most vivid and bloody example.  38 strikers were killed and at least 78 more were wounded when security and police representing the London based Lonmin mining corporation opened fire on them. The revelation that most of them where shot in the back whilst fleeing make it all the more horrifying.
Armed police with the miners they’ve just killed

If we want to change this horrifying state of affairs, changing the way we interact with our economic system to become more ethical consumers is a step in the right direction. But small scale individual change is never enough. We need to organize in our communities, workplaces and political parties to protect our health and safety and our living conditions; and we need to push these organizations to restructure the economic system that causes so much global misery.

Unions are especially relevant in this struggle for the role they play in protecting conditions at work; their role in the international labour movements attempt to improve conditions in the global south; and their involvement in community campaign to protect health and the environment. This last point can be illustrated locally by the part played by unions (including UNISON I’m happy to say) in supporting Avonmouth residents successful campaign to stop the building of a biomass energy plant. Large scale Biomass energy production accelerates deforestation and climate change, and emits toxic dust clouds that seriously impact health and can cause cancer.

Finally, to commemorate the victims of industrial ‘accidents’ around the world every year we celebrate International Workers memorial day. This year on the 28th of April we’ll be marking the occasion with a march from unite the union’s Tony Ben house (setting off at 12:30 pm) to a wreath laying in Castle Park, and a talk in the evening. The message is remember the dead and fight for the living. Come along, join and get active in a union, and make sure you use your vote this May (there’s less than a week left to register).

Flyer for the Bristol hazards group International Memorial Day talk