Respect MP George Galloway and Ukip leader Nigel Farange will both be on BBC1′s Question time tonight, 13 June. Should be a cracker – at a time when the BBC keeps giving the EDL free reign on its channels, it’s be great to have people on our side on: Salma Yaqoob last week, George Galloway this week.
This Friday, Green Party members across the country will face an immense dilemma – the choice between supporting our own minority Green council, or the hundreds of its refuse workers going on strike for a week against proposed pay reductions that could see some losing up to £4000 a year. That’s a choice most Greens would a few years ago have never thought they’d face. In the midst of massive local authority cuts, the Greens are in office but seemingly not in power.
Serious internal discussion about this sorry state of affairs has sadly been minimal at best, stifled at worst. This won’t suffice. The party is coming under attack over this from all other sections of the left, and Labour (as well as every other supposedly progressive grouping) will exploit this to its fullest unless the Green group in Brighton change tack and handle the situation properly. If Greens don’t tackle the issue head on, other parties will do so. Greens need to talk about Brighton – partly because everyone else is. Click to continue reading →
The breadth and depth of cuts in public sector jobs, pay and frontline services might lead some to believe that austerity exists and public spending is being reduced. However, public spending is actually 4% higher today that in 2010. We are not experiencing short term disruption to balance the books, we are experiencing the controlled demolition of the welfare state – transferring the UK from a social democracy to a corporate state.
Successive governments have dissolved the model of state owned schools, staffed by public sector employees. Today, our children largely attend privately owned schools, where the majority of services in the schools are delivered by private sector staff. The results have seen costs soar and quality plummet.
Academy Schools are publicly funded independent state schools (limited companies)– this means they receive their funding from central government and are accountable directly to central government, rather than their Local Authority. Contrary to the ‘Localism Agenda’ lauded by both mainstream parties, the trend is towards centralising control in Westminster. The schools are also able to make changes to staff pay and conditions, that is pay less.
During thirteen years of New Labour government, 203 state schools were turned into Academies. In just three years of the Coalition – this has risen more than twelve fold, to more than 2,600 (with a further 500 in the pipeline). This might suggest the programme was so successful it called for rapid national roll out. But it doesn’t.
A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee, the parliamentary select committee responsible for ensuring value for money for the tax payer, condemned the programme as ‘complex and inefficient’, leading to more than £1bn over spending. This £1bn had to be met by the budgets for other non-academy schools.
Geographer Doreen Massey is the author. In her contribution she makes a key argument that has an increasing currency on the Outside Left, that to construct a radical politics a vital starting point is to find a new language. The newspapers, radio phone-ins, TV news programmes are full of the vocabulary of the necessity of austerity, the inevitability of a marketed version of globalisation, the monetisation of the public good. It is this more than anything else that creates an everyday commonsense of despair. ‘We are all customers now’ is the rubric of contemporary non-citizenship. Click to continue reading →
GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny is to lead a march and demonstration of GMB members employed by Brighton & Hove City Council who will be striking over proposed cuts to their take home pay. Saturday 15 June 2013, 11:30 AM Assemble at Cityclean Depot, Upper Hollingdean Road, Brighton, BN1 7GA
Meanwhile, GMB has welcomed a commitment from the leader of Brighton Council, Jason Kitcat, that no agency or contractors will be used during any period of industrial action. The committment was made in an e-mail from Kitcat who after a period of evading the issue finally confirmed:
“This administration will not sanction the use of agency or contract workers to do the regular work of legitimately striking Council staff whilst those staff are out on strike. Accordingly, I am able to announce that all agency workers currently engaged in refuse collection and street cleaning will be withdrawn from service by 10pm on Thursday night, the day before the strike is due to begin, and agency workers will not be deployed in these areas during the strike week.”
As a result of this commitment GMB has confirmed that it will engage in negotiations with the Council to see if a way forward can be found. According to Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary:
“This is a small first step for the Council on the way to resolving this dispute. As a result GMB has confirmed that it is willing to attend talks to listen to what the Council have to say.
I will however say that there will need to be substantial movement in their position for industrial action to be averted. Whilst our members do not take strike action lightly, they cannot be expected to accept these reductions to their take home pay. I would like to thank those Councillors in the administration who have supported our members and brought about this decision.”
China successfully launched its fifth manned spacecraft late Tuesday afternoon, sending three astronauts on the country’s longest space trip.
With 10 astronauts and six spacecraft launched into space in a decade, China is speeding up on the path of exploration and building a home for Chinese in the galaxy.
At a see-off ceremony held hours before the launch, Chinese President Xi Jinping extended good wishes to the three astronauts.
“The mission’s crew members carry a space dream of the Chinese nation, and represent the lofty aspirations of the Chinese people to explore space,” said Xi.
The President later watched the launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, and shook hands with staff at the center after the successful launch.
Unlike the space trip of Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut who boarded the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in 2003, of less than a day, the three astronauts will stay for half a month.
In its journey, Shenzhou-10 will dock with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-1 twice, once through automatic operation and the other manual, and a lecture will for the first time be given on board the assembled orbiter to a group of teenage students on the ground.
The three-member crew were all veteran Air Force pilots before being selected as astronauts. Nie is the first general visiting space while his teammate Wang Yaping is China’s first space traveler born in the 1980s, a generation growing up in era of reform and opening up.
All of them are members of the Communist Party of China.
Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, once told Xinhua that Chinese astronauts might not pray like their foreign counterparts do before they set off on a space mission; however, Communism, as their shared faith, supports them.
“If the country has its own space station, Chinese astronauts, who are Party members, might set up a Party branch up there,” Yang said.
This is a post from our friends at Labor Notes, a US-based site focussing on workers & unions. It’s published with their permission.
Walmart store workers have launched their most ambitious effort yet to improve conditions at their giant, stubborn employer. More than 100 walked out of dozens of stores this past week, in the longest strike attempted so far. Previous strikes at Walmart have lasted one day.
The protest coincides with the company’s Walmart Shareholders Week, when hundreds of company-picked workers attend company-boosting events, including an Elton John concert, near the corporation’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Although they were not invited, the strikers, members of Organization United for Respect at Walmart, converged on Bentonville anyway by bus, joined by fired California warehouse workers, unionized workers at Walmart stores in Latin America, and even a Bangladeshi garment worker leader. Click to continue reading →
Look, I get it. No one needs to tell me that the antipathy towards the unemployed, the disabled, and anyone else forced to subsist on social security payments has been carefully but repeatedly orchestrated for over 30 years. Labour have historically not just gone along with the collective hounding of benefit recipients; during its time in government the party led from the front. We also know the demonisation that has poured uninterrupted from our establishment like a waterfall of filth from a stinking effluent pipe have consistently talked up recipients as scroungers who shamelessly ponce off the taxpayer. Hence we have a situation where 72 per cent believe “too many people were able to claim benefits who should not have been entitled to do so”, some 0.7 per cent of payments are estimated to be fraudulent. You’ll not hear many politicians suggest that, as a proportion of GDP, the social security budget has more or less remained constant.
The media and governments past and present don’t mislead over social security.
Their propaganda isn’t widely believed because people are stupid or that the media is all-powerful. It gets traction because it chimes with a lot of working people’s experiences. There is always one person in every family, every friendship group, every community that – without any evidence beyond perception and gossip – is strongly suspected of being a dolewaller or lead-swinger. For my mum, it was the bloke down the village on the social with a bad back who was on the take. For a disabled guy I recently helped out, it was the youths sat around Longton town centre of a weekday morning smoking and necking cans of Carling. And for younger folk I know, it’s the one who seemingly sits in their bedroom all day battling orcs on on WoW. The majority go to work to provide for themselves and their families, so the idea there are others who do nothing and live a “life of riley” off their backs exercises a negative pull on the popular imagination. Who, after all, wants to be taken for a mug? So you can understand why “truth-telling“, tales of hardship, and stat-mongering has barely shifted public attitudes. And, unfortunately, it is not likely to do so in and of themselves. Click to continue reading →