Archive for the ‘jobs’ Category

Sir Soulsby, British Steel and the case of the Chinese Granite

January 26, 2016

I was standing at a stall in the centre of  Leicester last Saturday afternoon, with the noise of pan-pipes playing Abba jarring my ears.

steel

I had taken the old British Steel logo (designed by David Gentleman in 1967) and made posters with “Save Our Steel”. “Renationalise the steel industry to provide jobs for communities”, I shouted – but the pan pipers had now been joined by some Hare Krishna devotees and I wasn’t sure if people could hear what we were saying.

The last remaining steelworks in Britain, representing centuries of skills and jobs for local communities, are under threat of closure – the Indian steel company TATA is announcing job losses at Port Talbot as I write this. The problem has been that cheaper steel has been imported from China, where labour costs are far lower and our industry has simply been unable to compete.

I realised that the very granite paving slabs we were standing on were also symbolic of the process of capitalist globalisation. They were shipped from China and are made of Chinese granite. It was obviously cheaper for Sir Peter Soulsby, the Lord Mayor of Leicester (no doubt having hired a consultancy to do a cost effectiveness analysis) to import tons of rock halfway across the planet, so that Leicester’s streets could be paved. Cheaper, that is, if you don’t take into account the exploitation of workers in China, or the greenhouse gases involved in the transport of the rock. The word “cheap” in this context is relative – the whole project cost £19m, with £1.5m set aside for the materials needed.

From the beginning, things went wrong – the “wrong type of granite” was delivered, which delayed the project, and specalist machinery had to be purchased to maintain the pavements. Despite all this effort, problems continued – granite is naturally porous and so was always going to be a challenge to clean. One comment was that a bag of chips should have been thrown on the paving slabs to test them before they were purchased.

It isn’t even as if the new paving slabs have been particularly prized by the people of Leicester. In 2010, just three years after they were laid, a quarter of them had become loose and so much of the city centre had to be dug up and re-paved.

So how was Chinese granite chosen for this job in the first place? The manufacturers explain that granite was chosen because it was “traditional to Leicestershire” and because it lasted longer than concrete. Indeed, granite is traditional to Leicestershire. Some of the oldest igneous rock in the world is under Charnwood forest, to the north. The area is dotted with local granite quarries. Had people been informed of the potential difficulties and product miles involved in transporting the rock, maybe they would have had second thoughts?

Under capitalism, it is cheaper to import huge quantities of steel, or granite from China, and ship it across the globe, than it is to use locally-manufactured alternatives. Labour cost is clearly the major factor in this. The answer is surely to secure decent terms and conditions for workers worldwide, so that jobs cannot be undercut.

The stall I was taking part in was on a cold Saturday in January in Leicester was organised by the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which fights for socialism and workers’ rights in 45 countries worldwide. We argue for democratic control of industry, decent wages and secure jobs. If the profit motive is taken out of the equation – then we can truly have a future that benefits the vast majority of the Earth’s population, and ensures that there will be a habitable planet for future generations to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Seattle

April 20, 2014

Occupy leads the way, the Spirit of ’08

Wall Street crashes, but we fight back – strike and demonstrate.

Questioning accepted truths, capitalism’s realm

Tide of humanity, dispossessed. Overwhelm

Squares and centres, reclaim the 99 per-cent

Stolen from us by avarice and greed. Hell-bent

To destroy jobs and welfare, profit at all cost.

If you cannot pay the rent, then all may seem lost.

If you push us too far, we have nothing to lose

Except our chains. We won’t comply and sing the blues.

The rich in charge, capitalism’s ‘fair’ exchange.

Obama raises the stakes, empty promises of ‘Change’.

Fast food workers first take up the union’s cause

Across the states, they demand – take back what is theirs;

Decent pay, a living wage, not too much too ask,

Healthcare when we need it. We take Walmart to task.

No corporate donations, ties with which to bind us

We built this ourselves – in the battle you’ll find us

In Seattle, we shout – $15 an hour!

Sawant’s elected, we realise our power.

Fight until we win –  we’re no longer satisfied

With crumbs from your table, now that we’re organised.

 

 

Note – Excellent article here on the progress of the $15/hr campaign and the impact the election of Kshama Sawant is having on people in Seattle and across America.

 


You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books

 

Reclaim UNISON

May 14, 2013

UNISON members across the country are facing attacks on pay and conditions and their jobs are at risk. In schools, libraries, the NHS and council departments workers are facing the threat of downgrading or redundancy, as councils make cuts. Labour councils have not put up any real resistance to these cuts, except for a few councillors in Southampton and in Hull – their reward has been to be expelled from the Labour Party!

If there is one union that could stop the government’s attacks on the public sector dead in their tracks, that is UNISON. Prentis boasts about the potential strength of the union’s 1.3 million members but he has then done everything possible to avoid national industrial action. On the one occasion, workers did come out in November 2010, mass demonstrations were held up and down the country and picket lines were buzzing with excitment. However, this glimpse of possible militancy has never been repeated. We need national strike action again, this time co-ordinated with the private sector as well. We have tried being reasonable and negotiating, but this has only encouraged the government and been taken as a sign of weakness.

If you agree that we need a fighting, democratic union, vote for Reclaim The Union Candidates on your ballot paper for UNISON NEC elections. If you have lost your ballot paper, if it is underneath a pile of junk mail on your desk, or if the dog has eaten it – you can get another by phoning 0845 355 0845 befoire 21st May. Ballot closes 24th May.

Jean Thorpe (East Mids region, Female Seat)
Adrian Picton (East Mids region, Male Seat)

Monique Hirst (Black Members’ Seat)
April Ashley (Black Members’ Seat)
Hugo Pierre (Black Members’ Seat)

Suzy Franklin (Health Service Group)
Gary Freeman (Health Service Group)
Mark Boothroyd (Health Service Group)

Greta Holmes (Young Members)

Claire Wormald (Eastern)

Jim McFarlane (Scotland)
Duncan Smith (Scotland)

Jamie Davis (Wales / Cymru)

Dave Auger (West Midlands)

Bernie Parkes (South West)

Helen Davies (Gtr London)
MarshaJane Thompson (Gtr London)
Jon Rogers (Gtr London)
Gundula Seidel (Gtr London)

Bernie Gallagher (North West)
Karen Reissmann (North West)
Roger Bannister (North West)
Tony Wilson (North West)

Jacqui Berry (South East)
Diana Leach (South East)
Paul Couchman (South East)

Helen Jenner (Yorks & Humber)
Mike Forster (Yorks & Humber)
Vicki Perrin (Yorks & Humber)

Reclaim our Union. Standing together for a fighting, democratic union.

We stand for – resistance to all cuts, privatisation and job losses.
industrial action against attacks on pay and conditions.
strike action to be co-ordinated across all trade unions.
only funding and supporting politicians who will oppose cuts and fight for our members.

Patiently explain . . . thoughts on the local election results

May 5, 2013

If you want to see what Britain will be like in a few years’ time, if the trend of the Con-Dem’s planned spending cuts, continued wholesale privatisation of our NHS and further erosion of our living standards is not overthrown by mass strike action on the part of the labour movement, then look at Greece.

With wages stagnating, and workers simply not being given the money to enable us to buy back what we make, the economy will continue to bottom-out, or go into another nose-dive into recession. Without any jobs being created for young people, without the prospect of a decent, free education, then it is not surprising if people look to blame each other for their situation, rather than the real culprits – the super-rich who made money speculating on loans which people could not afford to pay back (the reason for the financial crisis in 2008), and tax avoidance by large companies to the tune of £120 billion a year. Combined with the constant coverage of UKIP in the media, and the usual barrage of anti-immigrant propaganda in the right wing press, the rise in vote for UKIP in the local elections last Thursday is not surprising, as this was an easy way for voters to voice their discontent with the government. Labour hardly benefited at all, and the Lib Dems face political oblivion.

However, when the 147 newly-elected UKIP councillors are actually put to the test, voters will inevitably find an odious, corrupt party of the establishment, with racist undertones. This will hopefully in turn be rejected, just as the BNP have been wiped out in these elections. The question then is, where are protest votes going to be channelled? Without a mass, left-wing opposition, this could develop into far-right, neo-fascist sympathies, as has happened to some extent in Greece with a rise in support for Golden Dawn, an openly neo-Nazi party.

A major difference between Greece and the UK, apart from the savage depth of the cuts – leading to malnutrition amongst children, for example – there is a party called Syriza, which has opposed austerity measures. It has been the vessel into which much of the intense anger against the main parties has poured (particularly PASOK, their equivalent of New Labour). Syriza is now jointly in the lead with New Democracy, the Conservative party of government (both on 20% in the opinion polls). Rewind back a few years, before the cuts impacted on Greek society, when PASOK was the main opposition – then Syriza’s vote could be counted in terms of 5-6%.

I support TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Like Syriza, it is the beginning, I think, of something much bigger, as the cuts continue to bite. What direction and character such a mass party of the working class will have is yet to be determined. One thing is clear – all the other parties, from the Greens on the soft-left, to New Labour on the centre-right, to Tories on the right wing, to UKIP on the far-right – they all stand for cuts. Only TUSC is opposed to all cuts in services, for a decent, living minimum wage for all, to investing in and renationalising our NHS and rebuilding a comprehensive, publicly funded education system, free for all, from nursery to University. Another similar vision is Ken Loach’s Left Unity project, and I hope that the two can work together to provide an alternative to cuts.

Visit TUSC’s website for the election results.
TUSC’s election results 2013
These elections were held under difficult circumstances for the hard-left. There has been the usual lack of coverage of our campaign, and Labour were much more visible in opposition to the Tories. However, our 120 candidates achieved some remarkable results in this context. As cuts start to bite even further, the need for a co-ordinated, left-wing challenge to the austerity agenda is ever greater.

Having completed writing this, I am just off now to canvass for TUSC in a by-election in Abbey Ward, Leicester, where the political landscape is somewhat different, with 52 Labour councillors and just two others – 1 Lib Dem and 1 Tory in the council. Yet the lack of opposition to cuts is still overwhelming. Labour are carrying through the bedroom tax, axing homeless places and council-funded care homes. If a TUSC councillor were to be elected, this would be a massive step forward for the people of the city. We are standing to provide, in a small way at this stage, opposition to the mantra that the poor, the disabled, those on benefits must pay for the economic crisis.

Just as has happened in Greece and throughout Southern Europe, opposition to cuts will definitely grow. We urgently need a mass party of the left to be there for ordinary people. The choice is between socialism or barbarism.

Update – Election results Abbey Ward by-election 9th May
Labour (Vijay Riyait) 1190 elected 47.9% (+0.9%)
Conservatives (Dipak Joshi) 562 22.6% (+9%)
Independent (Terry McGreal) 352 14.8% – this was a NIMBYist campaign against traveller sites
Lib Dem Focus Team (John Taylor) 212 8.6% (In 2011, the Lib Dems and Liberals got a combined total of 602 votes)
TUSC (Tessa Warrington) 165 6.65%

This result gives us a good base, in an area of Leicester where we have not stood before, to build real opposition to cuts and to the bedroom tax.

Homeless

March 6, 2013

Two hundred hostel places cut
The headline screams.
Two hundred lives shut down.
Wasted dreams

Of a job and a flat of your own
Instead we are thrown
Out on to the streets
Faceless, alone, deadbeats.

We shiver in the cold
As we struggle to hold
On to dignity and hope
That we can cope

With the boredom and pain,
Feeling tired and brittle,
Getting drenched in the rain
Facing insults and spittle

Dripping onto our cheeks
From the loud-mouthed gob
Of a lout, who reeks
Of alcohol. Just lost his job.

Don’t be too quick to condemn.
A few pints help to stem
The misery, being on the dole;
The stresses of life take their toll.

Isn’t this the 21st century?
Tomorrow’s World said we’d be
Riding round on rocket cars
Not sleeping rough ‘neath uncaring stars.

Note: Leicester’s 51 Labour councillors are considering cutting 200 homeless places. With the loss of yet more jobs, the future for homeless people in the city looks bleak. Yet the council could stop the cuts. They could fight the government, rather than doing the Tories’ dirty work for them. However, the homeless are fighting back – a 200-strong protest outside the recent budget-setting meeting won a reprieve, while the Lord Mayor (on a £60,000/year salary) considers what to do. I can tell him what to do – instead of spending the council’s reserves on making its employees redundant, build a campaign to protect jobs and services. That’s the programme put forward by TUSC and Leicestershire Against The Cuts.

Jarrow March diary Oct 2011

October 31, 2011

Just finished a section of the Jarrow March from Nottingham down to Milton Keynes. Fantastic solidarity and support all along the route.

Loughborough

With the Jarrow march on its arrival in Loughborough - 17th Oct

Leicester protest with the Jarrow marchers

Arriving in Leicester with the Trades Council and Leicester Civil Rights campaign

Nuneaton

After Nuneaton, the march took a detour into the West Midlands – through Coventry, where it was greeted by Dave Nellist and the Coventry Socialist Party. I couldn’t make this part of the route and rejoined later in Northampton.

Attila the Stockbroker - 29/10 in Northampton

We upset the Vice Chancellor and local Tory MP at Northampton University, by holding a noisy protest against the loss of the Philosophy Department and vital support staff. See report: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13067/31-10-2011/jarrow-marchers-in-solidarity-action-at-northampton-university

Youth Fight For Jobs stands against job cuts wherever they are happening – we need to invest in education and public services, not throw more people on the unemployment scrapheap. Young people deserve a decent future – that was why I was marching.

Finally in Milton Keynes on 30/10

Finally in Milton Keynes on 30/10

I also helped make up a chant ( to the tune of the chorus of that hopelessly optimistic football classic ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcE86JmIN3E ).

We are the Jarrow marchers
We are with the RMT (RMT!)
When we get to London Town,
We’re going to bring the government down,
‘Cos we’re not going to work for free! (For free!)

We are the Jarrow marchers
We are with the PCS (PCS!)
When we get to London Town,
We’re going to bring the government down,
‘Cos we’re not paying for the bankers’ mess! (Bankers’ mess!)

We are the Jarrow marchers
We are with the FBU (FBU!)
When we get to London Town,
We’re going to bring the government down,
‘Cos we’re with UCU, CWU and BECTU too! (BECTU too!)

We are the Jarrow marchers
We are with the TSSA (TSSA!)
When we get to London Town,
We’re going to bring the government down,
‘Cos we won’t let ordinary people pay! (People pay!)

We are the Jarrow marchers
We are with UNITE (UNITE!)
When we get to London Town,
We’re going to bring the government down,
When workers and students unite (AND FIGHT!)

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150902518785652

Chant by Alex Moore, Iain Pattison and myself – composed on the Jarrow March from Northampton to Milton Keynes 30.10.11

Big thanks to all the marchers and everyone who helped: Becci, Bea, Nev, Dave Roberts, Attila the Stockbroker for a wonderful benefit gig and everyone in Nottingham, Leicester, Nuneaton and Northampton Socialist Party, who worked hard organising the route, designing flyers and banners, organising socials and accommodation, also the Trades Councils, and all who supported us and made us feel welcome en route.

Support the Youth Fight For Jobs Jarrow March

October 16, 2011

The Jarrow marchers are still on their 300-mile trek, which began in the North East on the 1st October and will finish in London on the 5th November. With 1,000,000 young people unemployed, tuition fees trebling and EMA axed, many of Britain’s young people face a future on the dole queue. It shows the disastrous nature of the capitalist system, that after 75 years, working people are still fighting for what should be a right – an education and a decent job.

This weekend, I was there to greet the march as it passed through Bulwell on the way to Nottingham. After 175 miles, the participants were obviously footsore and tired, but were still keeping up a good pace.

We received vital donations and well-wishes from the public in Bulwell, and then I joined the march for the four-mile journey to Nottingham. A great reception awaited us as we marched to a rally at Forest Recreation Ground, and then on to the Market Square, with support from Notts Against Cuts and the Trades Council in Nottingham. (See the Jarrow marchers’ blog for pictures).

A longer stint down the A6 from Nottingham to Loughborough awaits the marchers today, then it is on to Leicester. Download our leaflet  for more info.

The march arrives in Leicester on Monday at Abbey Park, 5.00pm, for a protest rally at the Clocktower. The next day, they will have a well-earned rest from bashing the tarmac, but will be having a protest at Leicester University and a public meeting (Ken Edwards Lecture Theatre, 7.30pm, Tuesday 18th October).

Hope to see any readers of this blog who can make it along.

Jarrow 2011

September 24, 2011

Following in the footsteps of our forefathers
Whose Jarrow-built ships plied the oceans.
Trading, they brought wealth to a few.
We are many.

Unemployed, with no hope of a future.
The clash of hob-nails on cobbles
Echoes down the years.
We are marching.

I am the spark of the nail on stone.
But I do not stand alone.
A million others are behind me,
We cry out for change.

All we ask are decent jobs;
The right to educate ourselves.
All these years of “progress” – for what?
We demand answers.

But softer than our words,
The poles of the old banner creak,
The gossamer breeze sighs
A lament for half-remembered heroes.
We will not forget.

Northern thunder marches on London,
Voices raised for jobs and socialism,
To save services and defend communities.
We are the youth, fighting for our future.

Young people united – Peace on the streets

August 9, 2011

Thanks to Becci Heagney for the picture.

On my way into Leicester this evening, I noticed a large number of young people wearing hoodies also making their way into town. There was quite a large police presence for a Tuesday evening in Leicester. However, there was no violence or rioting.

I was going with members of the Socialist Party – we always have our regular meeting at the Turkey Cafe on Tuesdays, where I was talking about religion and socialism. Halfway through, we heard a group of people chanting “Peace on The Streets”, emblazoned across a banner with a young person smiling, whilst wearing the ubiquitous hoodie. They were making their way towards the Clocktower. We immediately abandoned the meeting to join them, with copies of our paper advertising the Jarrow Youth Fight For Jobs March.

Then a small group (about 10) EDL supporters riled up the people with “E-E-EDL” chants. They pretend to be against Islam, but the people making up the demonstration were from all backgrounds. It was entirely peaceful. The police could have simply escorted the EDL away and left the youth to make their point peacefully. Instead they over-reacted completely – charging down the street with batons raised. One window of a clothes shop was smashed, but no-one even attempted to get in the shop.

Later there were some windows smashed, on Granby St and High Cross St, after the police provoked the youth. There were no press at the demo itself, other than radio Leicester – so the Leicester Mercury article is talking from hearsay.

The Socialist Party demands that cuts to young people’s services be reversed urgently. We are fighting for secure jobs for all – youth unemployment is around 1 million and amongst black youth the unemployment rate is as high as 50%.

We need a united fight against racism, police oppression and for a mass working class party to stand up for ordinary people. Otherwise, anger and frustration will continue to spill over into rioting. The answer, as we decided in our meeting, is working-class unity.

Nationalise Bombardier to save jobs

July 25, 2011

I went to the Bombardier demonstration through Derby last Saturday.

Around 6,000 people marched through the town in protest at the loss of 1,400 jobs at Britain’s last train manufacturer. Speaking at the rally, Bob Crow of the RMT made the point that he was on the side of German workers as well as English and this was not about “British Jobs for British Workers”.

Derby has links to the train industry for over 150 years. The bogies made at the plant are renowned as the world’s most environmentally friendly construction of their type, being light and strong – the two contradictory goals of any transport designer. However, the government awarded the contract for the expansion of rolling stock for the new Thameslink extension to Siemens, who are trying to poach skills from the Derby plant.

The reason for the decision? Siemens are more expensive than the British option and do not offer the same efficiency of rolling stock, but they can borrow money at a lower rate than Bombardier, having been given a huge contract by Deutschebahn. They also do not recognise trade unions, so this is an attack on workers’ terms and conditions, just to make a more attractive offer on the balance sheet. If you look at the state owned French SNCF, they award their contracts overwhelmingly to French firms, and likewise, perfectly reasonably, in other countries. Why can we not ensure the survival of manufacturing in this country?

Since the demonstration, the government has also been slammed by Bob Crow for lying, saying that it could not alter the contract, which was drawn up by Labour. In fact, Theresa Villiers was looking to cut jobs by awarding the contract to Siemens as a cost-cutting exercise. Siemens is only cheaper on paper, because it does not recognise unions and because it can pay the money up front, but there have also been questions asked about corruption within Siemens itself.

Click here for speeches made at the NSSN public meeting, after the demo – recorded by Dan Fahey.

The Socialist Party stands for the renationalisation of the train network and bus network, with subsidised fares to really tackle global warming. We would provide secure jobs, which could not be taken away on the whim of a government because some company is fiddling the books. We are calling on the government for nationalisation of the rail industry on the basis of workers’ control.

As I was walking round Derby, I saw this inspiring mural of the Derby Silk Mill Lockout of 1833-34. It reminded me of the ethos behind Workers’ Memorial Day – we need to remember the past, but fight for our future!

In October Youth Fight for Jobs will be recreating the Jarrow March against unemployment. It is scandalous that, 75 years since unemployed workers had to walk the hundreds of miles from the North East to London in order to present a petition to the King, we are still campaigning and marching against unemployment in the 21st century.

How can the empty words of the Fib-Dems, Tories, or the rhetoric of the Labour Party be believed? The Murdochgate scandal shows that the party of government and the party of opposition, both wined and dined in an attempt to curry favour with the press. We need to kick both of them out and build a real alternative to represent the interests of the vast majority of people struggling to get by, not a tiny elite. I support the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, which is making an important start in this direction.