Cleaners show their anger at the contempt from partying ministers

Posted on: May 28th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
Cleaners in UVW union gather at Downing Street to demand respect and justice

Cleaners and their supporters gathered at Downing Street to demand respect and justice (Pic: @UVWunion on Twitter)

Cleaners protested outside Downing Street on Friday in fury at the contempt for low paid workers detailed in the Sue Gray report. After Boris Johnson and his chums had their fill of partying, it was down to undervalued cleaning workers to clean up their mess. 

The Gray report detailed multiple occasions where cleaners and security guards were shown a “lack of respect” at Downing Street events. Gray said the treatment of workers was “unacceptable.” 

Sometimes the treatment by bosses in government departments during the pandemic was fatal. Emanuel Gomes, a cleaner at the Ministry of Justice, died in April 2020. As an agency worker, he wasn’t entitled to sick pay and when he caught Covid he continued to work.

His family believes if there had been proper sick pay, he might not have gone to work, and his life could have been saved. “The conditions that led to Emanuel’s death continue at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). We continue to suffer, fortunately we’re with a trade union helping us fight back,” said Vicente Mendes, Emanuel Gomes’ cousin, who is also a United Voices of the World (UVW) union member and MoJ cleaner

Cleaner Marta, one of those on the protest, told Socialist Worker, “We are at the frontline, and we need to be protected. I don’t think people like the prime minister believe we are human. They don’t care at all about the working class” she added. 

Susana, who works for UVW that organised the protest, told Socialist Worker, “ I felt terrible and angry when I saw that Johnson had partied while we were in lockdown. Cleaners’ pay is too low. It’s impossible to live, and many struggle to pay rent and feed their families. And add to that workers weren’t given the proper safety gear like gloves and good quality masks. 

“So many companies don’t pay workers any sick pay. That’s why people like Emmanuel are forced to work through illness. There are so many Emanuels. So many people that are scared to speak about and demand more out of fear that they will lose their jobs.” Workers from the IWGB and PCS unions also joined the protest. 

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said rudeness towards staff was “absolutely inexcusable” and that “whoever was responsible” should apologise. One PCS union member, who works in the Cabinet Office, responded, “The prime minister’s apology is too little, too late. His empty words will be no consolation to the hard-working cleaners and security guards who have suffered under his leadership.”

Both Marta and Susana pointed out that outsourcing has led to cleaning workers receiving more mistreatment and faced extra bullying. 

Workers laid flowers and lit candles for Emanuel outside Downing Street. They chanted “Justice for Emanuel” and “No justice, no peace.” Activists held a banner that read “They partied, workers died.”

God save us from this has been queen

Posted on: May 28th, 2022 by Sam No Comments

Prepare to be sickened by mainstream ­pundits ­fawning over Queen Elizabeth II as she ­prepares to celebrate 70 years on the “job.” They’ll probably use words like “stoic” and phrases like “dedicated to a life of duty.” 

But there are much better words to describe her—“scrounger” and “parasite” come to mind. The only thing Elizabeth II has ever been dedicated to is serving her class. She was born into scrounging on 21 April 1926. There seemed little chance that Elizabeth would be Queen, as she was third in line behind her father’s older brother and her father. 

But this all changed when her uncle, King Edward VIII, a Nazi sympathiser, abdicated and married Wallis Simpson—another Nazi sympathiser. While many a rich scrounger liked the Nazis in the 1930s, Edward and Simpson put their enthusiasm against the interests of the bosses who ran the British Empire and had to go.

But associating or even dressing up as a Nazi for the Windsors isn’t much of an issue. And fascist salutes aren’t much of an issue either. When footage of a young Elizabeth II and her family doing Nazi salutes was released, the palace could only cry that their personal footage had been “exploited.” 

Throughout her time in power, the Queen has been used as a voice box for right wing policy and as a tool to crush dissent. During her time as a princess, she was even a pawn in a plot to try and crush rising Welsh nationalism.

She was made patron of the Welsh League of Youth—Urdd Gobaith Cymru—which the establishment believed would be of “great value in improving the relations between the two countries permanently.” 

On a trip to Kenya in 1952, Elizabeth found out that King George VI was dead and was handed the title of Queen. In the same year, British colonial forces were brought in to crush the Mau Mau rebellion. A reign of terror followed, resulting in the brutal murder and torture of tens of thousands of Africans. 

After Kenya finally won its ­independence, the Queen wrote to the former president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in 1963. She said, “I pray that with God’s guidance, Kenya may prosper and that her people may enjoy peace and ­contentment in full measure.” These warm words seem especially empty when Britain only apologised for the atrocities it committed in the Mau Mau rebellion in 2013. 

Across the globe, Britain’s once vast empire was crumbling as Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. Former colonial states were fighting and winning independence, and so to cling on, the British ruling class had formed the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth website describes the grouping as a “family of nations”. But, in reality, Britain has continually gained more from this arrangement. In 1953 the Queen described the Commonwealth as bearing “no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception—built on the higher qualities of the spirit of man— friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace.” 

The Commonwealth became useful after the Second World War when Britain suffered a labour ­shortage. It led the Windrush generation to travel across to the sea to fill in the gaps. It was also an attempt to erase the brutal legacy of the empire and try to create a false sense of unity between former colonies, the monarchy and the “motherland.”

With the once vast British Empire ­disintegrating at the Queen’s feet even before her coronation, avoiding dissent at home was another priority of the ruling class. 

At the time of the coronation only eight years had passed since the end of Second World War, and Britain was bankrupt. Major cities still remained in ruins, and certain food items were still rationed. With Britain in the grip of austerity, the ruling class thought a coronation was an excellent opportunity to ramp up nationalist feeling and create a false sense of shared unity. 

No expense was spared on the big day, with the lavish ceremony estimated to have cost around £1.57 million in 1953, which is almost £47 million in today’s money. After the coronation, the elites headed off to Buckingham Palace, where they gorged themselves on coronation chicken canapés, shellfish mousse and tortoise soup. For millions of ordinary people who had lost loved ones during the war and were now living in desperate poverty, the day’s excesses must have felt like a slap in the face. 

After her marriage to racist, sexist and now thankfully dead Prince Phillip, the Queen popped out Prince Charles in November 1948. She then went on to have Princess Anne in 1950. 

Almost ten years later, to more than likely sway an election in the Tories’ favour, she gave birth to her ­favourite child and alleged paedophile, Prince Andrew. In 1964 she had Prince Edward. 

Scandal has plagued the Queen’s ­children, from messy divorces and racist comments to a well-documented friendship with millionaire child rapist Jeffrey Epstein

But for all their scumminess they have been awarded a life of luxury. Every lavish wedding of the Queen’s children or grandchildren has always led to a bill of tens of millions of pounds. Charles and Diana’s wedding alone cost the taxpayer over £80 million in today’s money. 

The royal family owns 20 properties, ranging from the 1,000 room Windsor Castle to the more modest 20 room Kensington Palace. And until the late 1960s, “coloured immigrants or foreigners” were barred from taking up clerical jobs in the ­various royal households.  To this day a clause is still in place that allows Buckingham Palace to ignore race and sex discrimination laws. 

Those in power would like us to believe that the Queen has been met with love and adoration wherever she goes. This is simply not true. In reality, the Queen and her offspring have been met with boos, rocks and sometimes even assassination attempts. When the mass graves of indigenous children were discovered in Canada last year, protesters tore down her statue.  In Britain and worldwide, millions of ordinary people won’t celebrate 70 years of the Queen’s reign but ­remember a legacy of racism, colonialism and inequality.


There’s still no future in England’s dreaming

That the Jubilee celebrations come 69 years after the coronation and five months after the anniversary of when the queen became the queen is as rational as the rest of the monarchy.

Few people believe God chose the monarch, and not that many care about the church she leads. Few really buy into the myth of her being the nation’s guardian. Regardless of the wall to wall simpering the media are doing for the Jubilee.

But that is real gold on those horse drawn carriages and jewelled crowns come encrusted with the real blood of empire. The government is Her Majesty’s Government, the monarch appoints the prime minister and the armed forces swear allegiance to the monarch not the government or the people. 

It is presented as a soap opera. But since Netflix has The Crown, the idea of royalty as heritage TV drama doesn’t explain their continued existence.

There is a hundred year effort to uphold the popularity of the royal family to legitimise Britain’s class structure. Its height was Queen Victoria providing a bulwark of reaction against radical change while enabling imperialist expansion and capitalist robbery.

Victoria was the Queen of Empire, Elizabeth is the queen of its decline.

Victoria was given the title “Empress of India”.  Elizabeth came in with the invention of coronation chicken.

The decline is more than symbolic. When she began her reign, Britain had more than 70 territories overseas. Now Elizabeth is the monarch of 15 countries known as commonwealth realms. She lost Barbados as recently as last year.

The use of royals on trade missions in pith helmets helps maintain the image that Britain’s rulers want. Many arms sales have been greased with a royal handshake. But the positives get fewer by the year.

Elizabeth’s distinctive feature was to present the royals as being just like ordinary people. Previous attempts to not seem detached were usually met with contempt and occasional stone throwing. But this time they stuck with the homely royal shtick. 

This ran the risk of making them too ordinary and so pointless, or too hypocritical. The risk grew as time went on.

After Princess Diana’s death, tensions between being ordinary and being royal came to a head. The perceived feeling that the royals had it in for her because she wasn’t posh enough hit the monarchy. Though overall sympathy for Diana actually helped the royals’ popularity. 

So today Meghan and the former Nazi cosplayer Harry getting away from racist relatives builds both sympathy for some royals and contempt for others.

The monarchy is in parasitic, opulent and very slow decline. The circular game of relying on and denouncing, and being denounced, by the media is part of this.

In 1969, 18 percent wanted to abolish the monarchy. The Silver Jubilee, Diana and the Golden Jubilee all came and went without really altering that figure.  It reached a peak of 24 percent in a survey of May last year. 

The age group that prefer an elected head of state to a monarch by 41 percent to 31 percent are 18 to 24 year olds. Elizabeth’s very longevity means that there will be a crisis when she dies. They have survived scandals before and because they are more than a soap opera they will not simply disappear.

During barbarism stability can be attractive, not just to bosses but to workers too. The idea that the royal family is above politics can be used to unify people around the interests of our rulers.

The more people revere their supposed betters, the less likely they are to take action against the unfair and unequal society they live in. The reverse is also true, and that’s why getting rid of the monarchy is both necessary and possible.

Major ambulance service ‘will entirely collapse in August’

Posted on: May 27th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
 
Two West Midlands ambulance service vehicles

The West Midlands Ambulance Service is under terrifying pressure (Pic: WMAS)

A director of one of Britain’s biggest ambulance trusts says it will entirely collapse this summer unless health bosses take urgent action. Mark Docherty, the nursing director of West Midlands Ambulance Service, says patients are “dying every day” from avoidable causes because of ambulance delays.

He revealed to the Health Service Journal, that handover delays at the region’s hospitals were the worst ever recorded, and that an increasing number of patients were waiting in the back of ambulances for 24 hours or more. So far, West Midlands Ambulances Service has recorded more than 100 serious incidents that relate to patient deaths where ambulances have been unable to respond in time.

Docherty said the situation was now so serious that he predicts his service will collapse in August. “Around 17 August is the day I think it will all fail,” he says. “I’ve been asked how I can be so specific, but that date is when a third of our resource will be lost to delays, and that will mean we just can’t respond.

“Mathematically it will be a bit like a Titanic moment. It will be a mathematical certainty that this thing is sinking, and it will be pretty much beyond the tipping point by then.”

He insists there needs to be a focus on discharging hospital patients who are fit to leave in order to free up beds for those arriving by ambulances. However, that problem is becoming ever more difficult to solve as social care faces its own collapse.

A huge shortage of care workers means that many patients who should be discharged and sent home with a care package cannot leave hospital.

Almost 170,000 hours a week of homecare could not be delivered in the first three months of 2022, according to the latest report from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass). The first three months of the year saw a 671 percent increase in unmet hours compared to spring 2021.

That not only means thousands of people are left languishing in hospital when they could be at home, but also that people not in hospital but in desperate need of care are going without.

The number of people waiting for assessments, reviews, and care support to begin as of February 2022 was 506,131. It’s a big increase from the 294,353 people reported in September 2021.

Adass says, “This means that people will be waiting without support and relying on unpaid and family carers.

“Others will not be living a decent life and are likely to be deteriorating—becoming dehydrated or malnourished or falling, for example. A proportion will need admission to hospital or will see their health and wellbeing deteriorate significantly.”

Boris Johnson’s government came to power claiming it would “fix” social care. It has done nothing of the kind. Now the ripples from that crisis are engulfing ever-wider parts of the NHS and causing them to fail.

Stand with Wealden bin strikers after police arrest pickets

Posted on: May 27th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
3 cops arrest GMB official Gary Palmer during the Wealden bin strike

Cops arrest GMB union official Gary Palmer on the Wealden bin strikers’ picket line

In an outrageous attack on the right to strike, police arrested and handcuffed three trade unionists on a refuse workers’ picket line in East Sussex on Friday. The striking GMB union members and their supporters blocked vans from leaving the Amberstone depot in Wealden.

The workers, who are outsourced to corporate giant Biffa, have been striking for more than a month for higher pay.

Mark Turner, the GMB B50 branch secretary, said workers faced police intimidation because their action is hitting the council. He said the union had effectively blocked all vans from leaving depots since the strike began. “The workers are solid,” he told Socialist Worker. “The council never thought they would strike for as long as they have.

“They thought workers would be out for two days and then come back to work. That obviously has not been the case. The strikes are working. The council website says that waste collection is at 50 percent capacity. It’s less actually probably less than 50 percent.” 

Simon Hester, chair of Hastings and District trades union council, was on the picket line on Friday morning. “A number of GMB full-time workers and I were blocking vans from leaving the depot,” he told Socialist Worker. “We knew Friday would be a stand-off because the council had recalled all the vans to the Amberstone depot on Thursday.” 

“Vehicles were in line waiting to leave the depot, and I was in front of the trucks. They sent officers to deal with pickets. When the chief inspector arrived, he said we would be arrested for blocking a highway. 

“He also made it clear that we needed to stop blocking vans because public pressure on the council to clear the streets of rubbish was starting to mount.” 

“It was clear this was a political decision to try and repress a lawful dispute. What’s also clear is that police bill, and Tory attacks on trade unions are giving confidence to the police to repress protest.” 

At a negotiation meeting on Wednesday Biffa was still refusing to meet workers’ demands for £12.50 an hour for loaders and £15.50 for drivers. In a pathetic attempt to stop the strikes, bosses offered workers a £600 one-off bonus.

But an impressive 97.8 percent of the workforce rejected the offer on Thursday—and more strikes are planned in the coming months. 

These arrests offer a glimpse of how the new police powers are giving confidence to cops to intimidate workers and trade unionists. 

Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners should join the Wealden bin workers’ picket lines in a show of solidarity and defiance.  It would send a clear signal that the bosses and cops won’t be able to intimidate the strikers back to work. 

Sunak’s windfall tax barely touches energy bosses’ billion pound profits

Posted on: May 26th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A picture of a petrol station sign showing high prices to illustrate a story about Sunak's windfall tax

Oil and gas companies have made billions. Sunak’s windfall tax isn’t a huge threat to them

Fear of losing votes, collapsing energy firms and anger in society has forced Rishi Sunak to promise some action on the soaring costs of gas and electricity. But the one-off payments are far less than are needed. They won’t stop a rise in poverty, cold, malnutrition and deaths later this year.

Chancellor Sunak told the House of Commons on Thursday that more than eight million households will receive a one-off payment of £650. This includes those on universal credit and tax credits. The first part will come in July and the second in the autumn. 

Separately, to those pensioners who receive winter fuel payments, the government will provide a £300 one-off payment. The six million people who receive disability benefits will receive a one-off payment of £150 from September.

The move is a shift from standing aside and saying that nothing can be done, as Sunak claimed when inflation rose to 11 percent a week earlier. It’s surely no coincidence that the announcement came 24 hours after Boris Johnson’s empty apology over partygate. 

But the package does no more than partly offset—for some—a coming further surge in bills. Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of regulator Ofgem, told MPs this week he was on course to raise the cap on household energy bills by over £800 in October. 

It will mean that energy prices this year are rising 23 times faster than wages, and 38 times faster than benefits. Ofgem already increased the cap on average bills by £693 in April to £1,971. Such an increase will more than wipe out Sunak’s announcement today for millions of people. If your bills go up £800 and you have £650 to help pay it, you are still much worse off. 

It’s not just fuel that’s going up. So are food, rents, transport and much more. There’s no payment to cover those. And then there are the people who earn too much to be on benefits. It doesn’t mean they are well off. 

They will be left only with a £400 payment that’s promised to all households. This is actually an additional £200 as it’s a doubling of the previously announced energy bill rebate, although it won’t have to be repaid.

Just £400 is nowhere near enough to stop the pain of price rises. Behind all the figures is a simple truth. These payments are always reported as supporting “vulnerable people”. In reality, they are designed to maintain the profits of the privatised energy firms that would otherwise face an epidemic of forced non-payment. That would mean some of the companies would collapse.

Sunak’s package is actually a profits support package.bHe said part of the cost would be covered by a Temporary Targeted Energy Profits Levy. The convoluted name is a desperate effort to avoid saying the words windfall tax that he had repeatedly rejected.

Sunak said the windfall tax “will be charged on oil and gas company profits at a rate of 25 percent and is expected to raise around £5 billion in its first 12 months”. That might sound a lot, but it’s loose change to the fossil fuel giants.

Shell made £7.3 billion just in the first three months of the year. It immediately handed £4.3 billion to shareholders. BP recorded almost £5 billion profit in the same time period. Together Shell and BP are on track to grab nearly £50 billion profit this year. The windfall tax is a tenth of that.

To ensure the figure is low, Sunak said that oil and gas companies that invest will get tax relief on 80 percent of that spending. That will be a bonanza for accountants to work out ways to protect companies’ loot. And why isn’t there a tax on all the other firms making massive profits such as the supermarkets?

In any case a one-off tax leaves in place the profit-delivering machine of the privatised energy market. Any genuine move to deliver affordable fuel and a sustainable future has to be based on democratic public ownership, not leaving the fat cats in charge. 

The Labour Party is revelling in the Tories’ embarrassment of adopting big elements of a policy that Keir Starmer put forward weeks ago. The Scottish National Party has also dropped its previous boss-coddling opposition to the North Sea windfall tax.

But Labour has such a limited vision of change. In fact, Sunak’s proposals go far beyond what Labour put forward in January. Back then shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves revealed a plan which would have delivered £600 to low-income households and £200 to everyone else. This would have been partly funded by a £2 billion windfall tax.By contrast the Sunak scheme will deliver £1,200 to the poorest households and £400 to everyone else, part-funded by a windfall tax of £5 billion. We need more strikes and mass protests to defend and improve working class lives.  

  • TUC union federation’s national demonstration: We Demand Better: march and rally, Sat 18 June, Portland Place, London. Assemble from 10.30am. Details and transport at bit.ly/TUC1806 

Delivery riders protest to stop police raids in Hackney

Posted on: May 26th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Delivery riders in Hackney protest outside the town hall, a crowd lets off red, green and yellow flares

Delivery riders protest outside Hackney town hall

Delivery riders and their supporters rallied outside Hackney town hall, east London, on Wednesday to demand improved working conditions and an end to police intimidation. Riders gathered at Ashwin street in Dalston and momentarily shut down the streets of Hackney as they rode to the town hall. 

The protest came after the cops harassed riders—and tried to arrest one for “immigration offences”—on Ashwin Street on 14 May. That night hundreds of angry protesters confronted the police and chased them away.

Outside the town hall, riders were greeted by council workers who are striking for a 10 percent pay. Alex, an IWGB union member and delivery rider, said police intimidation is a daily reality. “When the police do random checks, they ask for everything,” he told Socialist Worker. “They ask for your licence and immigration status—it’s scary.

“They think we’re all criminals. They see a Deliveroo bag. They see a target.” 

Rider Michael added, “I was checked yesterday. I was waiting for my order, and the police officer said I couldn’t wait there. They do this constantly. I feel sorry for all the riders that have to endure this. It makes me depressed and angry.” 

In January workers rallied outside the town hall to demand the right to park outside a local McDonald’s and to have access to toilets and a place of shelter. After this protest, Alex said cops began to ramp up intimidation. “We feel the police intimidation is a response from the council to our protest,” he said. 

“I also think the police themselves have gained a lot of confidence from the passing of the policing bill and the Nationalities and Borders Bill. In my rider’s WhatsApp groups, I can see that the intimidation of riders is happening everywhere. Unfortunately I think it’s only going to get worse.”

Alex was clear that Deliveroo doing a sweetheart deal with the GMB union won’t deliver for workers. “In all the years I’ve been a delivery driver, I’ve never met anyone in the GMB,” he said. “In fact I’d never even heard of the GMB before they struck a deal with Deliveroo. It seems more of a business interaction than something that will help any of us.” 

At the rally protesters chanted, “Keep riders on our streets, safe from police,” and, “Whose streets, our streets.” Speakers at the protest were clear that ordinary people must be ready to fight back against repressive Tory laws and immigration raids. 

John from the IWGB told the crowd, “On that Saturday the police tried to arrest our brothers, but we stopped them. We need to replicate that success and build anti-racist networks that can stop raids across the country.” More protests and action is needed to beat back the delivery bosses—and take on the Tories’ hostile environment. 

Remembering George Floyd, demanding justice for Sheku Bayoh

Posted on: May 26th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
Protesters take the knee remembering George Floyd. Includes black women in Unison T-shirt

Remembering George Floyd at the US embassy on Wednesday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Anti-racists in several parts of Britain held events on Wednesday to mark two years since the police murder of George Floyd in the United States. Around 50 people took the knee outside the US embassy in south London.

Stand Up To Racism, which organised the protest, said, “The Black Lives Matter movement exposed the violent institutional racism at the heart of society. The treatment of Child Q shows that in Britain —just like in the US—that brutal reality continues.”

Other protests included in Nottingham where around 40 people took part, and in Haringey, Lewisham, and Hackney in London.

In Edinburgh anti-racists gathered outside the inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh on Tuesday as the present phase of the hearings came towards an end (see below). Their banners included “From Minnesota to Kirkcaldy, black lives matter”.

Civil service workers held a protest in support of refugees, outside their PCS union conference in Brighton on Wednesday morning.

The protest was organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and backed by the union. It came as conference delegates looked set to vote to campaign against Tory plans to deport refugees to Rwanda, and against the Nationality and Borders Act.

One PCS member who joined the protest, Mr Dacunha, told Socialist Worker he joined the protest to “support refugees who are trying to come to this country.” He added, “We’re one of the unions that fights racism and for refugees.”

Delegates at the PCS union conference were set to discuss two motions taking on both pieces of racist Tory policy.

One motion committed the union to supporting PCS members who refuse to work on the Rwanda deportation scheme. Another said the union should continue supporting protests against the Nationality and Borders Act.

Many speakers and PCS members at an SUTR fringe meeting said the two policies were part of the Tory government’s strategy of using racism to prop itself up.

One PCS member, who works for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs noted the government’s plans to cut 90,000 civil service jobs. “What can happen is it’s quite easy for politicians to try and divide communities. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said.

Another member, Joseph, from MoJ Northamptonshire branch, also warned against government attacks on the rights of Roma and Travellers. “As soon as we let one group get thrown down it gives them the opportunity to do it to others,” he said.

Labour MP Diane Abbott told the meeting that the Tories’ Rwanda deportation plan was “simply being used as a racist way to bolster failing Tory support.

Weyman Bennett from SUTR said the Tories’ attempts to use racism were why trade unions had to “make resisting racism a central demand” on the TUC’s demonstration on 18 June.


Protesters take the knee in Edinburgh at the inquiry for Sheku Bayoh

Gathering outside the Sheku Bayoh inquiry (Pic: SUTR Scotland)

Claims of ‘superhuman strength’ black man at Sheku Bayoh inquiry

by Stephen Ramsay

A retired police officer claimed that Sheku Bayoh lifted three male police officers off the ground. The statement came in testimony this week to the inquiry into Bayoh’s death after contact with the cops.

Retired PC Nicola Short appeared before the inquiry in Edinburgh on Tuesday, as around 50 anti-racists chanted “black lives matter” and took the knee outside the building.

Short was one of the four initial officers to deal with Bayoh during the incident on 3 May 2015. She previously described him as being “deranged with superhuman strength”. She denied this was due to racial stereotyping of black men.

When asked by the counsel how often she had dealt with incidents involving a black man prior to her interactions with Bayoh, Short replied, “I don’t think I had.”

Short claimed that Bayoh was completely unaffected by CS spray to his eyes and that he “skipped” towards her like a “boxer” as she fled, before hitting her in the back of the head, at which point she collapsed.

From there, she claimed to see Bayoh lift “three of the biggest guys on the shift” off the ground simultaneously. She demonstrated physically for the hearing the “push-up” movement she claimed Bayoh managed while on the ground and covered by her three colleagues.

Bayoh was 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 12 stones and 10 pounds. PC Walker and Retired PC Paton, two of the initial responding officers, were both 6 feet 4 inches, with PC Walker weighing 25 stones at the time of the incident.

PC Walker claimed in a hearing last week that Bayoh had stamped on Short’s head while she was on the ground.

“It’s never been my position that my head was stamped on, because that’s not information I was told,” Short said at Tuesday’s hearing, adding she may have been unconscious at some point during the incident.

In a statement made ten days after Bayoh’s death, Short wrote, “I have no idea how he died but in my opinion his death was unavoidable.” 

Internal police reports around the time of his death claimed that Bayoh was wielding a machete. However, Bayoh was unarmed at the time of his arrest, and at no point during his interactions with the police displayed a blade.

Bayoh’s family argue his death was the result of positional asphyxiation. This is a form of asphyxia that occurs when someone’s position prevents them from breathing adequately. The family says this occurred while he was being restrained and pressed down upon by six officers, weighing a combined total of 100 stones and 2 pounds.

Bayoh’s family have expressed gratitude for the continued solidarity of protesters outside the inquiry. Aamer Anwar, the family lawyer, has estimated the inquiry could continue for another two to three years.

Oxford Mini strike shows appetite to fight over pay

Posted on: May 25th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
BMW Mini workers on the picket line, one wears a high vis vest, two others wave red Unite union flags

Oxford Mini workers on the picket line (Picture: Shaun Doherty)

The recent strike by Rudolph & Hellman workers at the Oxford Mini plant has shown how some sections of workers want to see a real fight over pay and other issues.

A single strike day forced the company grudgingly into a new and much more serious pay offer. Bosses put forward an increase of 19 percent over two years plus a 2 percent bonus. Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham said it was “a brilliant win”.

Certainly that figure is far more than most people are getting at the moment. It almost matches the present RPI rate of inflation. When workers started the pay campaign, day shift workers were on £10.30 per hour, equating to £20,888 a year. This will increase to £24,336 immediately and then to £24,944 from 1 January 2023.

But the account on the national Unite website doesn’t tell you that the deal was only very narrowly accepted—by 111 votes to 102. Nearly half of the workers thought they could have won more and wanted to keep striking.

The local union newsletter to members does include the ballot figures. It says, “This result is enough to settle some of the pay issues. But Unite recognises this result leaves a large number of members feeling that the company could have done better.”

Why was it close? Like many deals, the headline figure did not apply to everyone. One department where there is no union rep is less organised, and bosses offered them less. But the issues that sparked most anger were the lack of sick pay and probationary pay rates which mean that workers are paid £1 an hour less than the usual rate.

The local union says, “Workers must now continue the fight for an improvement to probationary rates, as this practice creates a two-tier workforce that divides workers whilst providing the company with cheap labour and bigger profits.”

The pay campaign was hard fought. One leading union rep told Socialist Worker, “From day one the company pleaded poverty and gave no less than four ‘final’ offers—five if you include the final settlement.

“At every turn the company used anti-union tactics like trying to discredit the union subscription rates, telling workers they don’t need a third party to speak for them and using an overtime blacklist for those workers who struck.

“On top of this the company regularly circulated internal communications to workers stating the union had agreed to terms or offers made. The reality was the union and its reps hadn’t agreed anything and was steadfast in the position of delivering on an inflation-busting pay rise to keep up with the cost of living crisis.”

Unite officer Scott Kemp and organiser Lewis Norton engaged in an 18-month campaign at the Oxford Cowley Mini plant. It focused on Rudolph & Hellmann to stem the race to the bottom and re-establish a trade union culture within the contracted workforce.

Membership grew by 130 percent and the shop stewards have doubled following the dispute. Action is the way to fight to defend working class living conditions. And the battle has to continue until there are genuine gains.