Bob Crow 1961 – 2014

Nautilus International has paid tribute to Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime & Transport union (RMT), following his sudden death at the age of 52.


Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said he was deeply shocked by the unexpected news. ‘Bob’s drive and commitment to his members was remarkable and he was a tenacious and tireless fighter for the cause of British shipping and seafaring,’ he said.


‘He was a man of principle and passion, and we were proud to work with him on a wide range of campaigns to defend jobs and conditions, and to secure more investment in the employment and training of British seafarers.


‘Behind Bob’s public persona was a really decent bloke – someone who I came to respect as a man of deep principle and determination. He was a formidable negotiator,’ Mr Dickinson added. ‘He will be missed and my sincere condolences are extended to his friends, family colleagues, and his partner, Nicola.’


Mr Crow, who became leader of the RMT in 2002, left school at the age of 16 and his first job was with the London underground, as an apprentice track worker. He became a local representative for the then National Union of Railwaymen at the age of 20.


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Zero Tolerance for Zero Hours

According to new CIPD research one million working people could be on zero hours contracts, meaning the controversial employment terms are being use more widely than feared.


Writing for the Guardian last week, Ian Murray MP, the shadow Employment Relations Minister said: “How can people be expected to live their lives in such a way? It is a life on edge. You don’t know what your working day will be, and you have no sick pay or holiday pay.”


The Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable is conducting a review of zero-hours, although Labour has criticised it as being “totally inadequate” and not comparable to a formal inquiry. Labour’s Chuka Umunna MP said the contracts should be the exception to the rule. Talking to the BBC, Chuka said: “While some employees welcome the flexibility of such contracts, for many zero-hours contracts leave them insecure, unsure of when work will come, and undermining family life. The ‘review’ the business secretary has established is clearly inadequate given the seriousness of this issue & the mounting evidence of abuse. Nothing less than a proper consultation with a formal call for evidence will do.”


Labour Shadow Minister Chuka Umunna’s twitter feed today

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady speaking recently on the issue said:

’300,000 workers in the care sector alone are employed on these insecure terms and conditions and that is before you factor in sectors like higher education, retail, legal services and journalism.
Employers cannot be allowed to take advantage of the current economic climate to employ people on the cheap.’


Today, Unions21 has announced news of a fringe event at Labour Party Conference entitled ‘Zero Tolerance for Zero Hours’ which will be held in partnership with the union BALPA. Read More…

Cabinet papers reveal Conservative plot against trade unions

Cabinet papers published under the 30-year rule show the depth of Thatcher’s ambition to crush the trade unions. The papers reveal that she told the head of her policy unit to “neglect no opportunity to erode trade union membership”.


“We must see to it our new legal structure discourages trade union membership of the new industries,” wrote Ferdinand Mount, then head of her policy unit.


The Guardian reports that the papers show Mount’s demand to ensure that trade union members had to opt in, rather than opt out of the political levy – was regarded as a step too far by Thatcher, who worried it would open up the discussion on companies funding the Conservative Party.


The papers also show the appetite within Thatcher’s Cabinet for a coal strike that would lead to a defeat of the unions. Discussions on withstanding a coal strike went on throughout 1983, a year before pit closures sparked the strike in March 1984.


To coincide, Unions21 announces it’s first Labour Party Conference event: Read More…

Compensation culture shown to be a myth

In October 2010 David Cameron said: “A damaging compensation culture has arisen, as if people can absolve themselves from any personal responsibility for their own actions”. But the “spiralling” compensation culture has been uncovered as a myth, as reported by the Independent, today.


The health and safety publication Hazards magazine has published a list of myth-busting facts under the title: Compensation Culture: Really?

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DoH spokesperson: ‘There is absolutely no government policy to privatise NHS services’

The Financial Times reports an arms race between private companies competing for over £5Bn of health contracts. Christian Mazzi, head of health at the consultancy Bain: ‘Now the rules of the game are changing. We can compete for all of the NHS budget on equal terms. What was traditionally locked up in the NHS is going to become available to the private sector…’


Despite which, the Department of Health repeats: ‘There is absolutely no government policy to privatise NHS services’


Meanwhile the Royal College of Nursing website reports that despite the best efforts of staff, some parts of the NHS 111 service are now in chaos, and urgent action is needed to prevent this from having tragic consequences for patients. Read More…

Great news for Britain’s worst bosses

The TUC has today slammed new laws that will force employees to pay upfront fees if they want to pursue a sexual harassment or race discrimination complaint against their employer.


From today it will cost someone £1,200 if they want to take their boss to an employment tribunal hearing for sexually harassing them. Worker’s facing racist abuse will also face the same barriers to justice, says the TUC.


The Evening Standard reports that protests will be held today and that employment lawyers predict “chaos”. Andy Prendergast, of the GMB says in the Independent: ‘The imposition of such fees represents the latest in a number of attacks on employment rights by the Govt. The charging of £1,200 effectively means many workers will lose any chance they had to seek redress if they are poorly treated.’ 


Meanwhile, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business Chuka Umunna has said on Twitter that the attack on employee rights shows the Government “want to win a global race to the bottom, not the global race to the top which we strive for.”

Ed’s Speech on Unions & Labour

Speaking on Labour Party reform this morning, Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband said:


“I do not want any individual to be paying money to the Labour Party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so. Individual Trade Union members should choose to join Labour through the affiliation fee, not be automatically affiliated.”


“I have asked Ray Collins, former General Secretary of the Labour Party, to lead work on how to make this a reality.”


“We will have a new code of conduct for those seeking parliamentary selection.”


“We will also urgently agree new spending limits for Parliamentary selections to include for the first time all spending by outside organisations. And the same goes for future selections to the European Parliament and future leadership contests.”


“The Labour Party will establish standard constituency agreements with each trade union so that nobody can allege that individuals are being put under pressure at local level.”


“I repeat my offer that as part of a comprehensive set of changes we should set a cap on donations from individuals, businesses and Trade Unions.”


“I propose for the next London Mayoral election Labour will have a primary for our candidate selection.”


Unions21 supporter union Usdaw has welcomed Ed Miliband’s speech which they have said is a decisive move to clarify the trade union link with the Labour Party and ensure that the relationship is clear to their members and the wider general public. In a statement, the union said “Ed Miliband proposes fundamental changes and we look forward to the extensive discussions that will now take place to work out the detail of the proposals.” Read More…

Unions respond to the Chancellor’s public spending announcement

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding in the House of Commons to the Spending Review statement, said:

The Chancellor spoke for over 50 minutes – but not once did he mention the real reason for this Spending Review today: his comprehensive failure on living standards, growth and on the deficit too.

Prices rising faster than wages. Families worse off. Long-term unemployment up.
Welfare spending soaring.  The economy flatlining. The slowest recovery for over 100 years. And the result of this failure? For all the Budget boasts, borrowing last year not down but up. Not balancing the books as he promised, but in 2015 a deficit of £96 billion. More borrowing to pay for his economic failure.

That is why this Chancellor has been forced to come to the House today and to make more cuts to our public services.


Commenting on the spending review, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“Today’s spending review reveals the true extent of the Government’s failure.  The Chancellor has got it horribly wrong – despite all the promises, the austerity measures and cuts, he still hasn’t got the country out of recession.  We are still in the slowest economic recovery in 100 years and yet all we get from this Chancellor is more of the same.

“The Government is losing grip on economic reality if they continue travelling down the same path, expecting to arrive at a different destination.  They need a plan B and they need it now.

“The idea that the NHS is being ring-fenced would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.  We’ve all paid into the NHS and we expect it to be there to deliver when we need it.

“How can anyone believe the Chancellor on unemployment because the figures do not add up. Despite the best efforts of the private sector any jobs being created are part-time, low wage and do not replace the hundreds and thousands of public sector jobs that have been lost. There are 2.5m people out of work, 1m are young and that is a shocking statistic.

“Instead of more cuts and austerity what the country desperately needs is an economic boost to stimulate jobs, growth and spending.“


Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, said: “The scale of cuts announced today for 2015/16, on top of those already being delivered in this Parliament, will result in many departmental budgets having been cut by a third.


“Additionally, removing pay progression without ensuring civil servants get the real rate for the job will end up causing lower morale and a faster exodus of talent.  This cannot be a viable approach for a Government focusing on reform, fairness and growth.


“Many public servants have seen their incomes fall by around 20% under this Government and the widening pay gap between the civil service and private sector is already making it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the best people, as was recognised by last week’s National Audit Office report.


“For the Government to have reform, growth and fairness in its policy delivery, civil servants need reform, growth and fairness in their employment.  This means a new approach to reward instead of arbitrary caps and cuts; resourcing that matches civil service jobs and training to the priorities the Government wants to deliver; and recognition of the role the civil service plays at the heart of society, rather than simply as a means to reduce the deficit.


“The Chancellor’s announcement today does nothing to address these long-standing problems and simplistically tries to portray public sector pay as a burden to be cut, rather than a means to motivate and recruit those that are tasked with delivering ever greater reform with ever reducing resources.”


Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said “I predict another 70,000 local council jobs will go in these cuts on top of the 420,000 that have already gone. This will take total number of jobs lost in local government to nearly half a million since the election in 2010.


This is more than half of the entire public sector job losses. This has coincided with a three year pay freeze. It really has been a dire time for local government under the coalition.


Council services have already been decimated as a result 26% cuts to local authority budgets and the freeze on council tax.


This further reduction will mean the average council having to find another £30m in savings at a time when local communities need more support than ever. Councils are coping by cutting services but they should really be saying ‘enough is enough’. Transferring money from other budgets to local councils is a “smoke and mirrors” exercised and does no change these cuts which are down 10% on a like for like basis.


Things like the £10bn backlog of pothole repairs blighting our roads and the £20bn funding gap for care for the elderly. This means the elderly are left to struggle isolated at home with fewer services or put in chronically underfunded care homes. These are the legacy of council cuts and there are many more examples.


The Chancellors sideswipe at public sector workers by questioning their pay progression also reveals a lack of understanding about pay systems.


People begin at a starter rate of pay and through experience progress to the rate for the job, typically after five years. If anything, public sector workers are actually underpaid for too long and should accelerate much more quickly to the rate for the job. Furthermore, performance related pay systems have been widely shown not to work.


This is just another unpleasant dig at public sector workers who have already been made scapegoats for problems they had nothing to do with.”

Ed Balls on Labour’s spending plans: Room to increase borrowing to fund projects such as housebuilding to boost economic growth

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls has made a speech setting out how the Labour opposition can turn things around on growth and living standards at the same time as dealing with the deficit in a fairer way than under the Tories.


Speaking at Thomson Reuters Ed Balls said: “As far as capital spending is concerned, it certainly does make economic sense now, as the IMF has urged, to bring forward capital spending to support growth and invest in our long-term infrastructure – creating jobs now, bringing long-term returns and taking advantage of very low interest rates.


“And for the future, we need to invest in the homes, transport and infrastructure Britain needs and ensure a recovery made by the many. Of course, here too we will only set our plans for investing in Britain’s future in the light of the economic circumstances at the time, and the needs of economic growth, informed by the findings of the Armitt review into Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs.”


The speech gives trade unions space to make the case for what the changed spending priorities might be and what the level and nature of capital spending might be.


“…on infrastructure, how should we set priorities within rail spending, and between rail investment, trunk roads, expanding airport capacity, delivering super-fast broadband across the whole country, modernising our energy infrastructure and improving our flood defences?These are some of the questions our zero-based spending review will ask.”


Rather than commiting to Tory spending limits, Ed has put forward a distinct approach to the economy.

MPs will today debate the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB)

The AWB is set to be abolished if the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill gains Royal Assent in its present form.


Labour has tabled the following motion:

That this House notes that the Agricultural Wages Board was set up in 1948 to provide a fair wage and skills structure for agricultural workers; recognises that it is used as a benchmark for other employment in the food industry and that it was the only wages council not to be scrapped in the 1980s; further notes that around a quarter of agricultural workers live in tied accommodation and that casual seasonal workers may move around the country;  regrets that the Welsh Government’s wish to retain the AWB has been ignored by the UK Government; condemns the Government for its abolition of the AWB, which took place after just 4 weeks consultation and will take £260 million out of the rural economy over the next 10 years, lead to a race to the bottom on wages in rural areas, reduce living standards and impoverish rural workers, exacerbating social deprivation and harming social inclusion; further regrets that Honourable Members could not debate this issue as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill; and calls on the Government to drop its plans to abolish the AWB.

The Twitter hashtag for this afternoon’s debate is #ruralwages Read More…