Gimme Gimme Gimme a much better contract

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GMB held a Further Protest At Wincanton’s Swindon Depot today In a Pay Dispute

A promised meeting with Wincanton over workers paid £2 per hour less did not take place and GMB will not take this lying down.

200 GMB members at the depot are paid £2 per hour less pay than the warehouse staff employed directly for Wincanton. The depot is operated for a major UK retailer.
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Left Unity – who holds the leaders to account?

The Left Unity project was dissected last year by “Michael Ford”, who pointed out that:

Social weight – deep roots in society – is the missing element which has sunk every previous initiative of its kind (SLP, Socialist Alliance, SSP, Respect, TUSC) generally sooner rather than later, and which Left Unity does not address. The fact is that despite these varied appeals over the last twenty-odd years to desert Labour at the ballot box, the masses and their organisations have not moved, and have held true to their previous engagements, even with a diminished enthusiasm reflected in an increasing rate of electoral abstention.

It is a reasonable question to ask, not only how organisations set up to challenge Labour at the ballot box might aspire to the mass votes necessary for electoral success; but also, should they actually get those votes, then how would these organisations resist the social pressures that affect successful electoral parties.

The Labour Party not only has 3 million trade union members affiliated, but also the historical legacy of social democratic attitudes by its voters; these are real social forces that provide ballast inhibiting the party from ever fully capitulating to the values of capitalism.

Wags have often said that while far left organisations split over ideology, far right organisations split over money. The more recent experience is that far left organisations struggle to deal with issues of leadership accountablity.

As reported in the Independent, Bianca Todd, one of the principle national speakers of Left Unity was found by an Employment Tribunal to have refused to give her staff a contract & to have refused to pay them sick pay and holiday pay.

The Harborough Mail reports:

Holiday money and unpaid wages from the Christmas period were owed to both Mr Brooks and Lisa Frederick.Andree Yarrow was owed sick pay and also owed wages from over the Christmas period.Mrs Yarrow said they had been told by Miss Todd that the company would close for two weeks during December but that they would be paid for that time.Mr Brooks, Mrs Frederick and Mrs Yarrow all said they had not received payment for that period in spite of assurances received from Miss Todd that they would.Mrs Yarrow also said that she did not receive any sick pay from the company when she had to take time off for an operation.

Recording a verdict, Mr Goodchild judged that Mr Brooks was entitled to £197.65 of unpaid wages, £177.90 in unpaid holiday and £296.50 because no contract was given.Mrs Frederick was awarded £197.65 in unpaid wages, £177.90 in unpaid holiday and £296.50 as again she was given no contract.Mrs Yarrow was awarded £300 in unpaid sick pay, £237.20 in unpaid wages and £296.50 as no contract was in place.

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Carillion rapped by Swindon NHS Trust report

A damning NHS Trust report completely vindicates what GMB has said about Carillion since the union was first approached by staff in 2011.

GMB, the union for staff at Carillion at Great Western PFI Hospital in Swindon, commented on the report considered on 25th September by the Board of the NHS Foundation Trust which details significant concerns about the one star food hygiene rating, the cleanliness issues identified by the CQC last year and ongoing employee relations issues.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB Regional Officer, said “”GMB call on Carillion to heed this chorus of criticism from the NHS Trust and to talk to us to settle the dispute and get on with delivering the service they are paid to provide.

“The Trust is well aware of the industrial relations issues on site and must be concerned by the high number of discrimination claims lodged with the Employment Tribunal, which are damaging to the reputation of the Trust.

“The report drives a coach and horses through the notion that private companies such as Carillion should have any role to play in the health service and is a damning indictment of the Private Finance Initiative.

“Great Western Hospital in Swindon is just one of 150,000 properties around the world where Carillion provide facilities management and support services. Even if the top managers are very good they cannot properly look after that vast number of buildings. Carillion’s main aim from the very start has been to line their pockets with cash from Swindon Hospital.

“As soon as it can, the Trust should end its relationship with Carillion and take these services in house to be run by directly employed and properly accountable staff in the interests of patients and not in the interests of profit.

“What we are seeing in Swindon is the same high-handed arrogance that gave rise to 224 construction workers from around the UK being blacklisted by Carillion. They have yet to apologise for this or compensate their victims”.
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Is RMT tilting back to the mainstream?

The RMT general secretary election result was interesting, giving the more mainstream Mick Cash a commanding lead over the other candidates; and Alex Gordon, the most left wing candidate, and the most associated with the No2EU and TUSC policies of the RMT getting the lowest vote.

An RMT official confided to me that he was hoping that the result would mean an end to what he described as “student union politics”. It has been clear for a while that RMT is able to exert far less influence over transport policy than either TSSA or ASLEF.

It will also be interesting to see whether Mick Cash is able to change the culture of the RMT, which for example, despite a reputation for being a progressive union, still has no female full time officials.

Scotland’s lessons from Quebec

By Ian Drummond

The future of Scotland and the rest of our island now hangs on a knife-edge. The SNP have, not for the first time, brought us to a pass where the smallest swings of chance in a very specific and abnormal time may lead to epochal changes for the worse for working people, on both sides of the border they so ardently wish to revive. Given their form in this matter, it is no wonder that Time and Chance was the title James Callaghan, perhaps our last real Labour Prime Minister, chose for his memoirs, for the SNP would make him and the majority of Britons who never voted for Thatcher’s Tories rue the terrible timing and feckless, drunken, almost chance nature of their treachery.

In 1979, with the winter of discontent over, the British economy improving on all fronts, and the Conservatives hampered by an alienating, extremist leader, all serious commentators expected Labour to win a historic third election in a row if it could just make it to the end of the year. And with the likes of Tony Benn and Michael Foot still in government, and the IMF loan having served its purpose even in the eyes of the Labour right, there was absolutely nothing inevitable about the radical shift of wealth and power in favour of the rich which eventually occurred, and much potential and pressure for a very different course. But on the 28th of March, in a fit of pique over the controversial failure of the first devolution referendum, the SNP MPs, “Scotland’s first 11”, first tabled their own motion of no confidence in the Labour government, then trooped into the lobby for Thatcher’s own, turkeys voting for Christmas as Callaghan said, triggering an election at the last point Thatcher could win it. The last real Labour government, ushered in by a victorious, all Britain miners’ strike, was thus ushered out by petty Scottish nationalism, and no-one tempted by such nationalism now, or who suffered the dreadful consequences for Scotland and the rest of deindustrialised Britain of the SNP’s shameful act, should forget it.
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Scottish independence – walking backwards while facing the future

All across the United States you will find Scottish cultural and fraternal societies, where people with a connection to Scotland or an affinity with Scottish culture and history gather to celebrate their shared love of the old country. Also in the US you will find the largest Highland Games events anywhere in the world, including Scotland itself.

I experienced this phenomenon for myself in the mid nineties when I moved to San Francisco for a spell and came across the St Andrews Society of San Francisco while out for an evening stroll with my partner at the time. Her apartment was close by in the affluent Russian Hill district and having just recently arrived from Scotland, where better to make friends and contacts than a society set up to celebrate the very country I’d only just left behind?

So along I went, not knowing what to expect but eager to show off my genuine Scottish accent and be lavished with the attention befitting a bona fide Scotsman. I was the genuine article, fresh off the boat, and I duly breezed through the door of that St Andrews Society puffed up with pride.

It only took fifteen minutes for me to realise that the people there – wealthy, white and right wing – had nothing in common with me nor I with them. The Scotland they held so dear was unrecognisable to me. It bore no relation to the country where I was born and grew up surrounded by the social maladies which flow from poverty – alienation, alcohol abuse, anger, violence, etc. In the end I couldn’t wait to leave, especially when a particular item on the meeting’s agenda came up concerning a campaign to make it easier for landlords in San Francisco to evict tenants with a view to taking advantage of the huge demand for rental accommodation that was prevalent in the city at the time. The good folks of the St Andrews Society of San Francisco, some of them landlords themselves, were fully behind the idea.

By this point my political consciousness was developing, and the very idea of evicting people in order to be able to charge more rent filled me with revulsion.
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George Galloway on Daily Politics with Andrew Neil

Reflecting on the referendum campaign

By Tommy Kane

Reflecting on the referendum campaign it’s clear that it’s degenerated into the most polarising, divisive and diversionary political event of our times. Countering this view, some socialists in the Yes camp suggest that the campaign has engendered hope, inspired a revitalisation of left politics and saw record levels of political engagement. These supporters pronounce independence will bring freedom from subjugation and a renewal of democracy, others proclaim it will allows us escape from the supposedly different Scottish and English political cultures, while others assert firmly that a Yes vote can go some way to ‘smashing the British state’ (incidentally not at the top of people’s concerns on the doorsteps). Amongst some there also resides a belief that, at the very least, independence will bring social democracy and a fairer and more just Scotland, because, whisper it, ‘we are more progressive up here’. In order to sustain a clean and seamless Yes campaign these left proponents of this missive appear to have suspended their critical faculties, especially in relation to the SNP’s White Paper, and whether they like it or not, have encouraged a discourse that has appears to have focused predominately on the liberation of ‘Scottish nationhood’.

Coming from a diverse range of views they all have one thing in common; a coalescing of grievance and anger at every recent failed policy or foreign adventure, a belief that solutions can only be found through the construction of a border and a seemingly faith based conviction that everything bad will, in time, become good but only if we vote for independence. If we don’t then, so the story goes, we are all doomed.

These assertions really need some interrogation. This message of hope is actually wrapped in real despair and pessimism that says nothing good can ever come from Britain. This is despite the fact that all material gains won over the past 70 or so years have come from a united Labour and Trade Union movement forcing them through. This fight back and material advancement for working people through the Labour and Trade Union movement is a force that has, incredibly, been written off by far too many sections of the left during this debate as they focus on the bad and ignore the good. All too easily they forget where the NHS, welfare, public services, social housing, and even the Scottish Parliament, emerged from
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