Coventry bin workers go ‘all-out’ while Eastbourne refuse strike wins better deal

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Coventry bin workers on the picket line with Zarah Sultana MP

Labour MP Zarah Sultana joins Coventry bin workers on the picket line (Picture: Richard Milner)

Bin workers in Coventry have significantly escalated their strikes for higher pay. 

The 70 Unite union members plan to strike from Monday to Friday of each week. This programme of industrial action is set to begin next Monday and continue until 23 March. An overtime ban is already in place. 

The picket line is still solid, despite the freezing weather. The constant tooting of horns is a sign of the support that the strikers have from passers-by on the busy London Road. This week strikes were set to take place on Wednesday and Friday. 

Solidarity continues to pour in, including a donation of £4,500 from a local Unite branch in the city. The strikers are determined to win higher pay.

Labour-run Coventry council previously claimed that the strikers earn over £50,000—in reality, their basic starting salary is just £22,183. 

Meanwhile, Bin workers in Wiltshire will ballot for strikes after Hills Waste Solutions in Trowbridge, Salisbury and Calne offered them a tiny 2 percent pay increase. This would amount to a pay cut. 

Tory-run Wiltshire council has refused to intervene, saying the dispute is between the outsourcer Hill Waste and the GMB union. 

The ballot will opened on 21 January and will close on 4 February.


Strikers in Eastbourne secure better pay deal

Refuse lorry drivers in Eastbourne, Sussex, ended their strikes last week after an improved pay offer from the council

The GMB union members accepted it by majority vote in a show of hands. A sizable minority of the striking drivers voted to reject the offer. 

The offer is a staged pay increase worth around 11 percent this year. And it guarantees a minimum hourly rate of £13.50 by April next year. The offer came on the sixth day of solid strikes by the drivers. 

Attempts by managers to take out the refuse lorries had been successfully blocked by well-attended pickets on successive strike days. 

Describing the picket lines as “illegal”, the Liberal Democrat-run council had adopted tough anti-union rhetoric. But it folded when faced with unwavering strikes, which had support from the local community.

Loaders were in the process of balloting to join the strikes. They have stood down their action after also receiving an improved pay offer.

The strike also won promised improvements in the facilities provided for the workers.

Keith Crane

Glasgow workers could walk out again in equal pay battle

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Around ten women strikers hold placards demanding equal pay

Workers workers in Glasgow strike in 2018 (Picture: Andrew McGowan)

Over 10,000 low paid workers at Glasgow City Council—and local authority‑controlled Glasgow Life—could strike again in their long running equal pay fight.

In 2018, thousands of workers struck for two days in Britain’s largest equal pay strike for decades. This industrial action brought £500m compensation payments to the predominantly low-paid women workers.

To resolve historic pay injustices, the Scottish National Party (SNP) run council also promised to bring in a new, fairer job evaluation scheme by 2021.

But the Unison, Unite and GMB unions fear that the council has been dragging its feet in implementing the new pay scheme and is refusing further interim compensation payments. 

Unison said, “It is unacceptable that workers are being expected to wait until at least 2024—six years after their initial payment—for the next step in addressing ongoing gender pay discrimination.” 

Meanwhile, this week campaigners celebrated the reopening of closed Glasgow Life-run libraries. 

Despite this, many Glasgow Life venues remained closed and the council is looking into making further cuts.  Workers should vote yes to strikes—and everyone should support their struggle.

Jim Main


Anti-Tory march for indie 

Around 800 protesters rallied in Glasgow’s George Square last Saturday to demand Boris Johnson’s resignation and Scottish independence.

The protesters marched to Glasgow Green, chanting, “Independence now,” and, “Tory, Tory, Tory—out, out, out.” 

At the rally, various campaigners drew lessons from other struggles for the independence movement. Fayrouz Kraish, an NHS worker and anti-racist activist, said frustration with Tory hypocrisy drove people to march.

“So many NHS staff put their lives on the line to save others,” she explained. “While people were doing that, Boris Johnson and his corrupt pals were partying and lying about it.

“People don’t want what we have now. It’s broken.”

Stephen Ramsay

Two-week pay strike at east London’s Barts NHS trust

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Ten strikers, mostly black and brown, with placards such as "Pay Up Serco", "Caution Slippery Serco"

Health workers at Barts Health NHS Trust struck over pay in 2017 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of cleaners, porters, and security, catering and reception staff are set to strike for two weeks at three hospitals in east London at the end of this month.

The Unite union members —employed by outsourcing giant Serco—are based at Barts, the Royal London and Whipps Cross hospitals.

They plan to walk out from next Monday in a pay dispute. 

Workers voted in December last year by a whopping 97 percent to strike over an insulting 3 percent offer. They already take home some 15 percent lower pay than they would if employed directly by the NHS.

Barts Health must be forced to reemploy the Serco workers on NHS terms and conditions.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “These workers face the same risks as NHS-employed staff but they are paid significantly worse and treated disgracefully.

“Barts Health NHS Trust have a golden opportunity to bring these workers, employed by Serco not the NHS, back into NHS employment.

“It’s time to end the injustice of a two-tier workforce. Unite is 100 percent behind our members’ battle against low pay and exploitation.”


SOS NHS coalition calls for national day of action 

A new coalition of NHS campaign groups and trade unions are coming together to demand a massive increase in health service funding.

The SOS NHS group is supported by Keep Our NHS Public and many of the biggest health trade unions – including Unison, Unite and the GMB.

It is calling for a nationwide day of action on Saturday 26 February, with full details yet to be announced.

The group says its “strategic objective” is to demand immediate emergency funding of £20 billion for the NHS – and “proper pay” for health workers.


Go to sosnhs.org

Boris Johnson had ‘birthday bash’ during lockdown

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Boris Johnson holding a birthday cake

Boris Johnson holds a birthday cake at a work event (Picture: Andrew Parsons via No10 Downing St)

Boris Johnson had a birthday party during the first lockdown of the pandemic. The latest revelation of yet another Downing Street party should be the final nail in his coffin.  

On 19 June 2020, up to 30 people attended the event, sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed picnic food and cake for around 20-30 minutes. He won’t be able to spin this as a “work event”.

Meanwhile, ordinary people suffered throughout the pandemic. By 19 June 2020, the death toll for people who had died of the virus was over 40,000—not much to rejoice about.

But Number 10 staff and other special guests found it within themselves to “gather briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday”.

Downing Street claims Johnson was in attendance “for less than ten minutes”. This is ten minutes longer than people had with dying relatives.

At the time indoor gatherings of more than two people were banned except for work or education. And only six could gather outside—socially distanced.

The event took place in the Cabinet Room just after 2pm. It had been a surprise for Johnson after he returned from a trip to a school in Hertfordshire.

Johnson’s wife Carrie threw the party that included guests such as interior designer Lulu Lytle—not a member of Number 10 staff. Lytle designed Johnson’s renovated flat that was funded by a Tory donor.

And Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s private secretary who invited over 100 staff to the 20 May “bring your own booze” gathering, was also in attendance.

So too were Jack Doyle, Number 10’s current director of communications, and the head of operations Shelley Williams-Walker. They celebrated with members of Johnson’s private office, Number 10 special advisers and operations and events staff.

Just nine days prior, party animal Johnson asked the public “to continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe”. And hours before the party kicked off, he had stood in silence for key workers who died in the pandemic.

Johnson’s family and friends also reportedly gathered in his official residence later that evening to continue the celebrations. But a spokesperson said, “This is totally untrue.” Instead, they say he hosted a small number of family members outside.

To add to the crisis in the Tory party, Theodore Agnew, a Cabinet Office minister, resigned from his post over the government’s handling of fraudulent Covid business loans.

Agnew announced his resignation in the House of Lords after it was revealed the Treasury last week wrote off £4.3 billion in Covid payments lost to fraud.

Which excuses Johnson will now use in an attempt to crawl out of his ever-deepening hole, or which of his staff he will fire to shift blame, is uncertain.

What is clear is that among the endless pandemic scandals and murderous policies, Johnson was laughing at us the entire time. And his contempt for ordinary people is more obvious than ever.

He cannot have his cake and eat it—Johnson must go now.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray is expected to release only the “findings” of her report into Downing Street parties this week. Relying on Gray’s report to force Johnson out, or on pressure from disgruntled Tories, won’t take working class people forward.

Johnson has to be forced out by struggle from below to send a clear message to him, and his repulsive government. And such struggles are needed to stop the assaults on working class living standards.

British state backs murder in Yemen

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
People clearing rubble

The aftermath of another Saudi bombing in Yemen in 2015 (Pic: VOA/wikimedia commons)

Airstrikes by a British‑backed military killed more than 70 ­people—including at least three children—in Yemen last week.

The coalition, led by British ally Saudi Arabia, killed three children playing football in an airstrike on a telecommunications centre in Yemen’s main port city Hodeidah. 
 
Another airstrike on a prison in the city of Sa’ada killed 70 people and wounded 138 people more.
 
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders reported that the airstrike left the local hospital “so ­overwhelmed that they can’t take any more patients.”
 
Meanwhile, the strike on the telecommunications buildings left most of Yemen without internet for several days.
 
It’s a blow to the ­hundreds of thousands of people already suffering after more than seven years of war brought on them by the West’s allies.
 
Majid Abdullah, a resident of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, said the internet outage left him unable to receive ­desperately needed money from relatives abroad.
 
“I don’t know what to do. We eat and drink from the money sent by expatriates abroad,” he said.
 
The airstrikes come after the rebel Houthi movement, launched a rocket attack on the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi coalition.
 
Saudi Arabia began the war on Yemen after a Houthi uprising in 2015.
 
The Houthis are backed by Iran—Saudi Arabia’s and the West’s regional rival—and control much of the west of Yemen including Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa.
 
The coalition’s blockade on Hodeidah has pushed ­millions of people in Yemen into starvation. The World Food Programme warned last September that five million people in Yemen were on the bring of famine and 16 ­million people were “marching towards starvation.”
 
Saudi-led airstrikes have also killed more than 100,000 people including at least 12,000 civilians.
 
It is armed in part by Britain, which has sold it more than £20 billion worth of military equipment since its war began in 2015.
The Tory government was forced to pause arms sales to Saudi Arabia briefly in 2019.
 
A high court ruling said that sales were unlawful because the government hadn’t assessed whether ­previous sales had been used in breaches of humanitarian law.
 
Yet just months later, top Tory Liz Truss—then trade minister—resumed sales once again.
 
That means Saudi Arabia and its allies can keep ­bombing Yemen—and keep killing children—with the support of Britain.

Boris Johnson’s problems go deeper than parties

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
Boris Johnson leans over his desk

Boris Johnson

Anyone thought the misgovernment of the pandemic couldn’t get worse has been proved wrong. 

Life and death decisions—there were 1,023 deaths due to Covid-19 in the first week of January—are now being dictated by whatever Boris Johnson thinks is necessary for his survival.
 
So schools have been told to stop requiring face masks, even though Omicron is tearing through them, to appease the Covid-sceptics on the Tory backbenches and in the cabinet.
 
It makes one’s head spin when one turns from this horror to the details of why Johnson is in such trouble. But this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing significant at stake. 
 
Brexit has left British capitalism at a strategic impasse. Johnson achieved it on the basis of a highly contradictory economic programme. On the one hand, he argued that breaking with the European Union (EU) would allow “Global Britain” to become a deregulated free market paradise.
 
On the other hand, he promised “levelling up” to the “Red Wall”—the Leave-voting ex-Labour seats in the north and the midlands that tilted Tory in December 2019.
 
These promises remain unfulfilled. Before she became foreign secretary, Liz Truss negotiated trade deals with countries outside Europe.
 
But their impact is trivial compared with the disruption that Brexit has brought to trade with Britain’s most important market in the EU.
 
Meanwhile, levelling up means reducing the economic gap between London and south east England and other regions, especially in the north. 
 
But this gap became a gulf thanks to Thatcherism. The large-scale closure of manufacturing industry in the 1980s and early 1990s devastated the north.
 
Meanwhile, while the “Big Bang” of 1986 launched the City of London’s ascent to the leading international financial centre.
 
This left the north heavily dependent on the public sector. New Labour was content to keep the state spending tap flowing, partly for obvious electoral reasons. 
 
But when the Tory-Liberal coalition came to office in 2010 it launched austerity, supposedly to pay for the rescue of the banks after the financial crash of 2007-8.
 
The ex-industrial regions were hit hard by this squeeze, which helps to explain why they voted Leave in 2016.
 
Promised
 
Johnson promised an end to austerity when he became prime minister. But the logic of “Global Britain” is more deregulation and privatisation. In a certain sense the pandemic allowed him to wriggle round this dilemma. 
 
That’s because it demanded a huge increase in public spending, financed by the Bank of England creating money and lending it to the government.
 
But the Thatcherite wing of the cabinet, headed by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, don’t like this. They blame the rise in inflation—5.4 percent in December, the highest level since 1992—on the extra spending.  
 
Sunak has sought to limit the rise in government debt by raising taxes to their largest share of national income since the late 1940s.
 
Brexit marked a huge triumph for the Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party. They had long demanded breaking with the EU—and Johnson purged many pro-European Tories.
 
The problem is they achieved this thanks to a politician who was willing to borrow from the far right, campaigning against the establishment, and distancing himself from neoliberalism.
 
Many Tory MPs were very unhappy with Johnson’s readiness to tax and spend. 
 
The Downing Street scandals must make them wonder whether he has served his purpose.  
 
In a Telegraph article that was supposed to be a defence of Johnson, the Brexiteer ex-MEP Daniel Hannan hinted at this.
 
He argued that “reduced living standards will be the central fact of our politics for the rest of this Parliament”, which the Tories can only overcome through “meaningful deregulation. 
 
“Many Conservative MPs ask each other whether these things can happen as their party is currently led and configured.”
 
If a lot of Tories are deluding themselves that another dose of Thatcherism could revive the economy and keep hold of the Red Wall seats, then dumping Johnson definitely won’t end their crisis.

US forces on stand by as West and Russia raise stakes over Ukraine

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
A picture of Putin who is amassing troops on the Ukraine border

Putin is amassing troops on Ukraine’s border

Sabre-rattling between US and Russian imperialism has brought Ukraine to the brink of war. 

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken promised a “swift, severe and united response from the United States and Europe” if Russia invaded Ukraine.

President Joe Biden could send between 2,000 to 5,000 troops to countries bordering Russia and Ukraine.

This could increase to 50,000, backed up by aircraft and warships, under a senior generals’ plan presented to the president last weekend. The US and British governments both continued to ship arms to Ukraine during the last week.  

And Tory minister Dominic Raab claimed that British spooks had unmasked a Russian plot to stage a coup and install an obscure former MP as the Ukrainian prime minister.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has placed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border since November of last year. Armoured divisions are now within striking distance of the capital Kiev, with a population of almost three million people.

Putin has been building up troops since November last year, in a bid to force the US to the negotiating table. He wants assurances that the US-led Nato alliance won’t expand eastwards. 

He can also see an opportunity to exploit divisions within the webs of Western imperialism.

The US has talked up the threat of an invasion in a bid to put Russia on the back foot.

But European capitalist states—such as Germany—are far more reliant on Russian energy and have been less bellicose.

The US and Russia don’t want to get bogged down in a long war—but that doesn’t mean it won’t break out. The logic of imperialism—a system driven by competition between capitalist states—can push states into direct confrontation.

In Britain socialists should build opposition to the US and British states beating the drums of war—and fight the system of imperialist rivalry that produces it.

Letters—Tories’ failed school reading scheme is not a surprise

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
A primary school classroom

The Tories are failing young children with their corporate learning schemes

The UCL university study published this week—which lambasts the government directed method of teaching young children to read—comes as no surprise to early years practitioners like myself.

The narrow focus on synthetic phonics—first teaching letter sounds—is failing children and sucking the joy out of teaching them.

Schools are increasingly encouraged to invest in schemes that dictate exactly how we should teach, and children should learn.

The online training for my school’s new scheme included questions like, “‘There should be no mix and match of phonics programme resources’—true or false?” The answer was true. Woe betide any teacher that strayed from the brand and thought they could mix and match resources. 

I suppose all those other phonic pictures and books need to be shredded.

I shared the study to my nursery and reception teacher—they both replied they couldn’t agree more with its findings.

We have an awful new phonics scheme at the moment called Little Wandle, which is totally full of corporate rubbish.

The schemes are prescriptive, even down to the facial expressions you should use with the children. 

Everyone has to learn the same mantras and all the lesson plans are written by the company. Children are even tested on nonsense words that don’t make sense. Educators shouldn’t behave like robots to produce children who are not encouraged to think about the world around them. 

The reality is they have to consume small chunks of contextless fodder.

Like other rules the Tories set, I guarantee they don’t apply to their own children. 

No doubt in public schools, teachers will use a variety of strategies and a breadth of texts because that is what actually works.

As teaching assistants our time is taken up in the early years of education with interventions to get children through the phonics test.

Julie Forgan

York


The new Labour MP is rotten 

In the 2019 election campaign, with a couple of hundred other socialists, I heard Lucy Burke speak—the Labour Party candidate for Bury South constituency.

In 2020 most of those people came out again to take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Keir Starmer has delivered a kick in the teeth to all those people by allowing the Tory Christian Wakeford to defect and become the Labour MP for Bury South.

Wakeford voted for the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit, the Nationality and Borders Bill and the police and crime bill.

The fact that Wakeford feels comfortable in Labour shows the depth of the crisis in the Tory Party. But it also shows just how far to the right Labour has travelled since 2019.

Tory MPs are now welcome, while thousands of socialists are expelled.

But in Greater Manchester, as well as elsewhere, there is an alternative. Last Saturday, there was a fantastic Kill the Bill demonstration in the city.

The bus driver Tracey Scholes was reinstated after a massive campaign and the Chep workers have been on all-out strike since before Christmas.

Socialist politics and organisation based on these struggles outside of parliament are the way forward.

Adam Rose

Bury South


South Yorkshire bus strike had complications  

The article about the Stagecoach strikes in South Yorkshire emphasised the determination and strength of the pickets, which should encourage other workers to fight.

It stated that the final settlement was higher than most had expected, but rightly points out it does not keep up with the true rate of inflation.

However, the sentence saying the action was suspended by workers in Barnsley and Rotherham leaving those in Sheffield to fight alone was not accurate. 

These two areas have previously had separate wage negotiations. Their weekly pay dates are separate, which is why the strikes started on different days.

There are also complications about differing overtime rates and sick pay. 

A meeting of 200 Sheffield drivers voted to accept the deal with a lower hourly rate but enhanced conditions compared to Barnsley and Rotherham.

George Arthur, Barnsley

Phil Turner, Sheffield 


Influencer is ignorant on poverty  

Molly-Mae Hague, a British influencer and creative director of fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing, has been under scrutiny for comments on poverty.

Her statements—such as “we all have the same 24 hours in the day” and other “motivational comments”—have caused a debate.

It centres not only on her success, but the falsity of the “feminist girl boss” figure that has been pushed by the system in recent years.

Hague’s PR crisis didn’t stop there. A later expose saw her advertising the position of a social media manager with a salary of £20,000—ridiculously low for that kind of job. 

She thinks that regardless of where you come from, becoming CEO of a multimillion‑pound company by the age of 22 is achievable for those that simply work hard enough.

This is a reductive and privileged assertion.

It leaves a very bitter taste coming from a woman that represents the white, upper class, and hyper-feminine image that plagues Instagram.

Even more so, considering that her vast wealth comes at the cost of the thousands of exploited sweatshop workers that create Pretty Little Thing’s unsustainable garments. 

Lola Bhlaire

Glasgow


Change is from struggle

The left—in the Labour party or outside—would do well to read Nick Clark’s article on Jeremy Corbyn’s potential new party (Socialist Worker, 12 January).

We won’t change society by working within a corrupt parliamentary system designed to prevent change in favour of ordinary people. 

Real change comes from the outside.

Gary Smyth

via Twitter


Boot out Johnson on our terms

Although I’ll be glad to see the back of Boris Johnson, I feel irritated by media manipulation. 

It suits them for whatever reason to get rid of him now—so they think let’s go for him.

But there have been bigger scandals in my opinion, such as releasing Covid patients into care homes.

David

via Twitter


Tories are hypocrites

I’m not obeying “rules” that the rule makers break. It was clear back in March 2020 they only made the rules for the minions.

They profit grossly from extortionate fines, which should be paid back in full with compensation and full pardon of criminal wrongdoing.

Vile government cretins on their high horse. 

Time to fight back people.

Alison Jarrold

Facebook


No place for socialists 

Two years into his term as leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer’s only “achievement” is to make his party a hostile environment for socialists

But it’s a welcoming place for vile, racist, reactionaries jumping ship from the Tory party in a desperate attempt to save their seats.  

Sasha Simic

Hackney