Anna Chen’s ‘Culture Lounge’ on Resonance FM tonight at 5.30pm – discussing the super rich with guests

REMINDER: TONIGHT on Resonance FM at 5.30pm

A tale of two nations — Madam Miaow on the Super Rich

On the day of Operation Vendetta, the global Million Mask March, Madam Miaow’s Culture Lounge looks at what the Super Rich are up to.

Happy days are here again: for some. The economy’s bouncing back, profits are up, taxes are down, so why are the politicians and the media still sticking it to the have-nots rather than the have-yachts? Why is it austerity and cuts for the majority in Britain while profits soar for the top 1 per cent?

Bras that cost a million pounds, rounds of drinks topping a quarter of million, diamond-encrusted everything and the steady insistence on that £20 a week in bedroom tax. Is the relentless hammering of the poor, the elderly, the disabled and immigrants just tiresome old schtick?

The BBC’s new series, Britain on the Fiddle, says “don’t look here, look over there at the benefit scroungers”. Madam Miaow says, hell no, let’s take a closer look at where the real money is and exactly what all that saved tax and super-profits can buy you.


Presented by Anna Chen with guests by Aditya Chakrabortty, Kate Belgrave and Charles Shaar Murray.


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Previously …

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Schools survey reveals shocking levels of poverty

Unison logoA survey of nearly 3,000 school support staff* reveals the shocking impact of poverty on the children in their schools.

The survey by UNISON, the UK’s largest union, covered all areas of the UK and shows that:

  • 87% say children are coming to school tired
  • 85% say children are coming to school hungry
  • 80% see children coming to school without proper uniforms or in worn out clothes
  • 73% believe that poverty has a negative impact on the education of the children in their school
  • 57% see the children in their school in poor physical health
  • 55% believe that some children at their school appear to be suffering mental health issues as a result of rising poverty levels
  • 55% have seen an increase in the number of children who rely on breakfast clubs in this school year

Jon Richards, UNISON Head of Education said:

“The impact of poverty blights the life chances of children even before they walk through the school gates. Education is a vital route out of poverty, but our survey exposes the very real fears of school staff for the physical and mental wellbeing of the children they see every day in class.

“It is shocking that so many school staff are reporting children coming into class hungry. How can any child be expected to concentrate on their lessons when they have not had enough to eat? Not standing out is important for many children and so not having a proper uniform or wearing old and worn out clothes can be very stressful and lead to bullying.

“Poverty affects all areas of a child’s life, their health, the results they achieve in school and their future employment prospects. We live in the 7th richest country on the planet and yet this survey shows a divided nation with the poorest suffering from the effect of welfare cuts and the blight of unemployment.

“It is a sad fact that many of the children living in poverty have parents who are working. UNISON has seen a massive increase over the last few years in requests to our welfare fund for help including grants for school uniforms.

“The Government dished up more harsh news in the spending review yesterday, but it needs to face up to the dire consequences of austerity on families. It needs to take note of these findings and acknowledge the serious damage that its cuts agenda is having on the most vulnerable in our society.”

*Teaching assistants, learning support staff, school business managers, technicians, school meals workers and other support staff.

Plaid Leader launches ‘Plan C’ to move economy forward

Seven point plan to create jobs and increase the value of the Welsh workforce

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has launched the party’s Plan C to move the Welsh economy forward, a response to the current economic problems facing Wales.

The seven point plan includes a ‘buy local’ policy to improve Welsh public procurement, a business bank for Wales to assist small companies in Wales, support for a Welsh Metro in south-east Wales and improved research, development and training facilities in Wales to help Wales refocus towards a sustainable economy.
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New Unite community centre opens in Tower Hamlets

Len & Lutfur at Cable Street muralA new community centre in Tower Hamlets – to help people in one of the most deprived areas of the UK with employment and welfare issues – was opened yesterday in a partnership bringing together the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Unite and Barclay’s Bank.

The centre is based at the iconic St Georges Town Hall, Cable Street E1 0BL (click here for a map).

The centre, which will be open five days-a-week between 10.00 -18.00, will provide new training and job seeking skills, welfare advice, cultural activities and has a state of the art learning suite.

Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman; Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey; and Group Employment Director for Barclays, Dominic Johnson spoke at the opening ceremony.
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Urgent: Developing Coup Attempt in Venezuela

Hands Off Venezuela

On Sunday April 14, Bolivarian candidate Nicolas Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election by a narrow margin. With 99.12% of the votes counted, there was a 78.71% turn out, with Maduro receiving 7,505,378 votes (50.66%), and Capriles 7,270,403 votes (49.07%). Opposition candidate Capriles declared that he does not recognise the result and demanded an audit of 100% of the vote.

On Monday April 15 Capriles made a speech, which was broadcast live by all private TV stations as well as CNN Spanish. In it he refused to recognise the election results and called for mobilisations to demand a full manual recount of the vote. These included a national pots and pans banging protest on Monday at 8 pm, marches on the regional offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE) on Tuesday 16, as well as a march on the CNE in Caracas on Wednesday 17.

At the same time both the Organisation of American States president Insulza and the United States declared that they were also in favour of a full recount. The Spanish government added its voice to the chorus and said they did not recognise the results of the elections.

This was followed by riots in the streets, road blockades and burning barricades organised by opposition supporters. Prominent opposition leaders spread rumours that ballot boxes and ballot papers were being burnt to prevent a recount, using pictures of the destruction of electoral material from previous election contests (these were taken from the CNE website as can be seen here).
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The Bedroom Tax Shames Britain

From The Mirror

Julia Jones, who will have to live on just £53 a week, faces losing the home and garden where she scattered her husband’s ashes

Dear Mr Cameron

Julia+Jones++Writes+to+Mr+Cameron+about+room+tax++at+her+home++in+Newbury+BerksI heard you in Prime Minister’s Questions say you would look at individual cases on the bedroom tax. I am 59 years old, David (my husband) and I have both worked since we were 15, paid taxes, did our bit. We have never been well off but we both did worthwhile jobs.

Five years ago David got melanoma. He had excruciating treatment and, although still not well, returned to work as he thought it was his duty. Four years ago he got bowel cancer; he had an irreversible colostomy. Six months later he returned to work. Two years ago he got brain cancer. Seven weeks later he died.

Throughout all this I was advised I could get care allowance, but I rejected this: he was my husband, it was my duty to care for him. We lived off the little savings we had until we could return to work. When he had the colostomy we were allocated this home as David could not climb stairs any more and I struggled. His ashes are buried in the garden under the rose bushes that friends gave me instead of wreaths.

Mr Cameron, my husband and I were the hard workers you claim to support, we never asked for anything.

I would give everything if this had not happened to us. Because we were on benefit and sick, you and your government said hateful words against us. Words that made acquaintances look at us with contempt.

The most powerful men in the country imply we are scum so we must be scum. You and your government call us scroungers, next door go to work while our bedroom curtains are still drawn.

My curtains were still drawn at 11am as the light made David scream with pain.

Do you not consider that I would give everything for my husband to be alive, me to not have incapacitating pain and we could both be the hard workers we once were? I live in small 1 1/2 bed bungalow that was built for older people. It is supported elderly living so I feel safe. It could not house a family as under 55s are not allowed.

You now want to take my home from me. The home that literally made my fingers bleed cleaning as it had been neglected for 20 years when we moved here. You want me to leave my husband’s ashes, my neighbours who take me shopping and give me some form of social life? I have no family, we could not have children.

I am living without heating at present so how can I pay what I do not have to stay in my home? Have you any idea how that affects my fibromyalgia?

I eat one meal a day and am in constant pain which is exacerbated by the cold. I may get Discretionary Housing Benefit. But we both know that is only for 13 weeks at a time and when the pot is empty, it is empty. I have considered moving but the only property available is far from shops and bus stops and costs £98 per month more than where I am at present. I would be living in isolation.

You say you are building more social housing, but it is too little too late for many of us. You may blame the Labour policies, but it was your government who introduced this law so I have to hold you responsible.

Mr Cameron, I do not believe you or your MPs are evil men at heart, I believe this is an ill-thought-out plan and you did not understand the consequence of your action.

I ask you to take a step back and look at this again.


Yours, Julia Jones

Carillion Exposed in Guardian

From the Guardian: Carillion accused of racial bias and intimidation by Swindon hospital staff

Tribunal told that managers made Goan porters and cleaners give gifts for favours including gold for time off work

By Rajeev Syal

Carillion, the outsourcing giant, has been accused of racial discrimination by Asian-origin hospital workers who claim they were told by white managers to give gold watches, bangles and cash in exchange for favours. Forty eight staff of Goan origin said in employment tribunal papers that they were subjected to a culture of intimidation and fear by supervisors at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire.

One particularly disturbing aspect of this, it is alleged, was the practice of managers to demand “gifts” from non-white staff including cash, jewellery, cigarettes, alcohol and, in one instance, a duvet. In return, staff would be granted holiday and overtime requests, allowing them to return to Goa to visit family members or attend religious festivals, it is claimed.

When staff complained of the practice as early as 2007, they faced harassment for trade union membership and whistle-blowing, it is claimed.

A spokeswoman for Carillion said that there were incidents of gift giving for favours from managers, but added that these have been investigated thoroughly and disciplinary procedures are in place. The company will vigorously defend itself against the claims. Carillion is one of the UK’s leading companies in providing support services to local and central government through a variety of Public and Private Partnership projects. In a 2012 interim report, entitled;Making Tomorrow a Better Place;, the company’s revenue is listed as £2.2bn with underlying profit before taxation amounting to £73.1m.

Jose Estrocio, a claimant and GMB union representative, said that the tribunal cases follow years of intimidation and complaints.

“We are in a developed country and had to give money and gold for holidays. None of the white cleaners had to do this, it was only the Goan community.”

Shah Qureshi, a partner at the law firm Bindmans, said that those that complained were victimised with the threat of disciplinary action.

“This type of scenario is akin to the ‘ master and servant’ relationship of Victorian Britain and should have no place in the 21st Century,” he said.

Most of the workers were recruited in Britain to work for Carillion as porters, cleaners, and members of the housekeeping staff in Swindon’s biggest hospital.

Supervisors maintained a system whereby they expected gifts in return for favours but their demands were only made of non-white employees, according to the writ. Paulo Fernandes, a union rep, claimed that when he applied for a porter’s job, he was asked by a female manager “What will you give me?” before being asked for a gold chain of a certain length, saying it had to be visible and not too long or too short.

Fernandes, accompanied by a friend, handed over a chain belonging to his wife at the manager’s house, it is claimed. He began work as a porter, but after four weeks was told that he was not doing his job properly and would have to return to a housekeeping job, it is also claimed. “The claimant started to cry and was in complete shock,” the papers noted.

Another claimant, Irene de Souza, wanted to travel to Goa for 10 days in January 2011. She claimed a manager asked her for a gift, and she felt compelled to hand over perfume and a watch worth £25. This was particularly distressing, she claimed, because it was a gift from her children.

The gift-giving system carried on for years before the claimants joined the GMB union and issued a collective grievance procedure in December 2011, court papers said.
The company carried out an investigation, the papers said, and the claimant cleaners were interviewed and told that their evidence was confidential.

However, in June, the company told the workers that they were going to be subject to a disciplinary hearing because they had given gifts in return for benefits, the papers alleged.
Staff say that one of the managers involved in obtaining gifts has left the company.

A spokeswoman for Carillion said they have investigated the allegations and concluded that gifts have been given in exchange for favours from managers. So far, 58 members of staff have filed claims with the tribunal since February, she said, and these will be “vigorously” defended by the company.

“In the circumstances it was appropriate that Carillion carried out disciplinary processes with employees who admitted giving or facilitating gifts for advantage. This is an ongoing process but outcomes so far have included training to those who gave gifts for advantage – not sanction.

“To be clear: Carillion will not tolerate racism or racist remarks from any of our employees, and racism goes completely against all our values as an organisation, as well as our policies.

“Claims are presently being subjected to a formal case management process by the tribunal. It is only once this process is completed at the end of this year that we will have a clear understanding of which cases the tribunal will expect Carillion to defend – and which claims the tribunal will not allow to proceed,” she said.