Oxfam slams ‘economic violence’ of rich—struggle to beat their system

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

Wincanton B&Q workers in Worksop on the picket lines

Wages in Britain are falling amid rapidly surging inflation. Official figures released on Tuesday showed basic pay rose 3.8 percent in the September-November quarter. 
Even on the official rate of inflation, set to be uprated after Socialist Worker went to press, that means a big pay cut. And on the more accurate RPI figure it’s an even larger cut.
In the same set of statistics, there was news of Covid’s terrible toll.  There has been a big increase in the number of people who are not available for work, particularly people over the age of 50. 
A rise in long-term sickness is the driving factor. For many of the lowest paid and people on benefits, poverty is already hitting hard. And from April, when the energy price cap soars upwards, it will be much worse.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said this week that low income families could spend 18 percent of their wages on energy bills.  
Single-adult households on low incomes could be forced to spend 54 percent of their income on gas and electricity. This is not some minor shift. It has to be an urgent call to arms. 
The TUC union federation has called for bigger wage rises. But it will take much more than its requests that “ministers must give unions more power to go into workplaces and negotiate better pay and conditions”.
Change will come through union action and struggle, not hoping for the Tories to have a change of heart. 
Capitalism is failing in Britain—and internationally. A new report by charity Oxfam, coinciding with the start of the Davos conference of the rich, branded the choices made for the wealthy as “economic violence”.
The ten richest men have doubled their hoard of money during the pandemic, while the incomes of the poorest people have taken a hit.
Since the pandemic began a billionaire was created every 26 hours. 
Yet at least 160 million people have been pushed into poverty during the same period. The 20 richest people are estimated to emit 8,000 times more carbon than the billion poorest people.
The report says that we are headed towards a society “in which billionaire wealth booms, in which millions of people are killed, and billions of people are impoverished due to inequality, in which we burn the planet and our future human existence on the altar of the excesses of the rich.”
Working class people everywhere face one deadly system. The task is not to patch it up but to destroy it.
As we battle to drive out Boris Johnson and the Tories, that revolutionary change has to be part of our answer.

Tory police bill not beaten yet

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
Protesters against the police bill they have purple flares and yellow placards

Kill the Bill demonstrations over the weekend (Guy Smallman)

The Tories suffered defeats this week in the House of Lords over parts of their repressive Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill. 
More amendments were set to be voted. Peers rejected moves to criminalise protesters locking themselves onto objects. 
They also rejected amendments that would have outlawed interfering with infrastructure such as airports, railways and printers, and obstructing construction or maintenance works on transport.
And out went measures to allow police to stop and search protesters “without suspicion”.
Because of the way the Tories have organised the bill’s progress through parliament, these measures cannot be introduced when it returns to the Commons.
That’s hugely welcome. It shows that campaigning and demonstrating in a militant way can increase the pressure on the people at the top. 
But other defeats in the Lords, such as over plans to ban noisy or disruptive protests and stop protests in Parliament Square can be reinstated to the bill in the Commons. And the Tories will certainly try to do this.
The core of the bill remains, including many of the repressive measures and the attacks on Gypsy, Roma and Travellers.
As they face multiple crises, the Tories want more authoritarian laws and more powers for the cops. But they do not always succeed. More strikes, protests and dissent can keep up the struggle to kill the police bill and defy whatever is passed.

Reports round-up: new strikes at NewVic

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Ten strikers at Newham Sixth NewVic Form College

Lively picket lines in east London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) workers struck last week against unfair management practices, workload and academisation.

They were set to return to picket lines from Tuesday to Thursday this week.

And they have plans for more in the following weeks if management refuse to give in to demands.

Striker Rob told Socialist Worker workers were currently “doing a lot more with a lot less”.

This has had a huge impact on both teachers and students over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many local campaigns and trade unions such as the UCU, Unite and PCS have sent messages of support, and strikers hold lively picket lines.

Messages of support to [email protected] or [email protected]

Hospitality workers protest in Dundee

Around 50 workers and their supporters employed by MacMerry held a successful demonstration in Dundee last Friday.

The company, which owns hospitality venues in Dundee and Glasgow, faces allegations including covering up a Covid-19 outbreak, bullying, union-busting, pay problems, and failing to investigate sexual misconduct.

This action, organised by the Unite union, came after workers decided to lead the fightback.

Speakers included workers from Unite Hospitality, Dundee trades council and the local Socialist Workers Party branch. They spoke about solidarity and wider trade union struggles in Scotland. 

The demonstration was a boost for the workers and is a rallying point for trade union activists and campaigners in the area.

Ross Clark

Technicians won’t be merced off

Technicians at Mercedes Benz Retail Group are set to strike for four days next week.

The 185 Unite union members across nine sites voted by majorities of between 80 and 100 percent for strikes after a second year without a pay rise.

Workers at sites in Brentford, Brooklands, Colindale, Croydon, Heathrow, Loughton, Temple Fortune, Stratford and Watford will strike from next Tuesday to next Friday.

The workers have since been offered a 1.5 percent pay rise—well below inflation.

Fight for more at FLB Group

Around 110 workers at print and publishing firm FLB Group in Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, which owns Filofax and Letts brands, are fighting over pay.

Unite union members struck last Wednesday for 24 hours and are set to do so every Wednesday until 31 March.

Bosses have offered a pay offer of just 2.75 percent, while Unite is demanding 6 percent. But with at inflation now over 7 percent, even that is not enough. It’s good that workers are striking—they shouldn’t have to accept a pay cut.

Bosses’ silence fuels strike ballot

Over 400 workers employed by refuelling and ground handling company Menzies are being balloted for strikes.

The company has refused to enter talks for pay for 2020 or 2021.

The workers, based at Heathrow, will be balloted until 27 January. Strikes could begin in mid-February hitting the half-term holidays.

Stop companies profiting from deportations

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
TUI plane in the sky

TUI Airways carries out the most deportation charter flights

Commercial airline service TUI Airways Limited is under mounting pressure to cease deportation charter flights.

Forcing TUI to stop its flights would be a victory for activists who have regularly protested outside the company’s offices in Brighton. 

Virgin Atlantic was similarly forced to end a ­partnership with the Home Office in 2018 after increasing public outrage over the Windrush Scandal. 

From 2020 the Home Office and TUI’s partnership has caused misery for people trapped in Britain’s deadly immigration system. 

The company chartered nine flights in 2020 and over 20 in 2021, quickly becoming the commercial airline that carried out the most deportations. 

Those forced onto flights were sent to Ghana, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Jamaica. 

Profit was behind TUI’s move to deporting people. In 2020 the company lost around £2.7 billion earnings due to the pandemic. 

The German government gave the company was given a bailout of over £4 billion. But this didn’t stop it doing deportations. In fact, the number doubled. 

The Home Office pays millions to private companies to carry out its deportations. It spent £8.2 million on 47 ­charter flights in 2020. 

In August last year seven people were deported to Jamaica at an estimated cost of £43,000 per person. 

From these figures, it’s clear that TUI made millions from charter flights. This money could have been used to instead help refugees trapped in the asylum system.

One deportee recalled to Corporate Watch the night before they were kicked out of Britain. They described the horror of the situation made possible by greedy private companies.  

“I heard that I had lost my appeal. I was desperate. I started to cut myself. I wasn’t the only one. Eight people self-harmed or tried to kill themselves rather than be taken on that plane. One guy threw a kettle of boiling water on himself.

“One man tried to hang himself with the cable of the TV in his room.”

How much TUI makes from deportations is unclear due to dodgy deals made by the Home Office and third-party private company Carlson Wagonlit (CWT).

CWT is an exclusive travel agency that since 2004 has been employed by the Home Office to hook private travel companies to carry out deportations. 

In 2017 the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration revealed just how much business the company gets.

“Annually it receives 21,000 booking requests from Home Office caseworkers 

for tickets for enforced removals. CWT also managed flight rescheduling, cancellations and refunds. The volume of transactions processed varied from 5,000 to 8,000 per month,” it reported. 

At present CWT’s contract with the Home Office is worth £5.7 million and will end in 2024. 

TUI may be under pressure to stop deportation flights, but other travel companies will be waiting in the wings to pick up the ­contracts CWT offers. Budget airline EasyJet carries out the most deportations to eastern Europe, and British Airways and Qatar Airways also regularly carry out flights. 

Travel companies making large profits from deportations are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Detention centres that hold those facing deportation are also run by private companies, including GEO Group, Mitie and Serco. 

Clearsprings Ready Home, which runs Napier Barracks, pocketed a £1 billion Home Office contract.

Credit reporting company Experian also conducted financial checks to define immigration statuses. 

Private companies profit from deportation horror. But protests by ordinary people have the power to stop them.

Last November activists prevented a flight to Jamaica and in May protesters in Glasgow stopped two men from being taken by border forces.

Anti-racists must keep up the pressure on firms and the government to halt deportations.

Bosses cause blockage on the tube

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Six striking tube workers with raised fists stand in front of large red and green RMT flags

Night tube strikers (Pic: Phil Rowan)

Night Tube strikes returned last weekend as the RMT union accused London Underground of blocking progress in talks.

RMT reps said they were willing to suspend the strikes if bosses agreed to a new set of proposals from the union.

But bosses refused.

Now workers remain determined to strike each weekend until June.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch described RMT members as “angry and frustrated”.

He added, “We are not backing down, the action goes ahead.”

With the dispute at a deadlock, the RMT must escalate action involving workers on all Night Tube lines.

Action down the line?

London Underground workers that voted 94 percent to strike over jobs, pensions and working conditions could soon walk out.

Around 10,000 workers across all roles on the Underground are set to strike after bosses refused assurances on working conditions. Workers are angry at the rising cost of living and the sense that they are being made to pay for the governments Covid-19 failures.

RMT union reps are considering what action to take and when it will happen.  Union leaders shouldn’t delay the action and should call hard-hitting strikes.

Strikes could sweep south east England train services

Cleaners for outsourcing company Churchill have begun balloting for strikes over pay and justice for these essential workers.

The RMT union  represents workers on four of Churchill’s contracts in the south east of Britain.

The ballot runs off the back of a long-running campaign for pay justice by cleaners. They have worked throughout the pandemic and picketed at the central London Churchill offices regularly.

Churchill has refused to make an acceptable offer despite two directors receiving a £3.8 million dividend last year.

Bigger national strikes possible in universities after reballot results

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Charlie No Comments
Six pickets with UCU union placardsplacards

Strikers at the London School of Economics in December (Pic: Guy Smallman)

More university workers can join a second wave of strikes against attacks on pensions and for better pay, conditions and equalities.

UCU union branches that didn’t reach the 50 percent turnout threshold that anti-union laws impose on strike ballots have been reballoting.

After the results, released on Monday and Tuesday, seven more branches can strike over cuts to the USS pension scheme and nine more branches can take action over the four fights dispute.

Workers at 58 universities struck for three days in December as part of two ­connected disputes.

The first is over cuts to the USS pension scheme. The second is over equal pay, casual contracts, ­workload and a real term pay rise, together known as the “four fights”.

UCU members at City university of London, Newcastle university, Queen Mary and Swansea university voted to take action over both disputes.

The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Leicester and Strathclyde university all voted to join the USS fight.

And Northumbria university, Oxford Brookes, the university of creative arts (UCA), the university of Westminster and Writtle university college all voted to take up the four fights dispute.

Joseph from the University of Leicester told Socialist Worker how he and other branch members worked to get the vote out.

“Last time, we were six votes short of being able to strike over USS. This time we passed the threshold,” he said.

“We held reps’ meeting and sent out regular emails and texts and made a political argument that we needed escalate action.

“We did everything we did last time, just better.”

At a meeting organised by UCU Left on Monday, activists spoke about where next for the dispute.

Roddy from Imperial College told the meeting that university workers are now in a “strong position to fight.”

“Our opponents, the Tories, are in a terrible situation, and so we are in a stronger position than we were in,” he said.

Activists on the call argued for the need to escalate strikes and to keep the two disputes together at all costs.

The NUS student union has called a student strike for education on 2 March, which could coincide with strikes.

The only way to win better pensions, pay and conditions is to escalate.

South Yorkshire Stagecoach bus strike over but it could have won more

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A large group of South Yorkshire Stagecoach strikers stand on a picket line with flags and a cardboard 'solidarity bus'

Workers held large pickets throughout (Picture: George Arthur)

Workers at South Yorkshire Stagecoach have ended an all-out strike after accepting a pay deal.

Some 550 members of the Unite union began striking indefinitely earlier this month after a below-inflation pay rise, which followed a pay freeze.

But they voted to end the strike after bosses offered 10.7 percent over two years—covering February 2021 to May 2023. This is more than many are achieving, because they fought hard.

But in reality the increase is some 5 percent for each year of the deal. With inflation running at over 7 percent, that’s effectively a pay cut.

Strikers fought with great determination. They began with two week-long strikes towards the end of last year, then quickly escalated to all-out action. This is significant and rare compared to other Unite and Stagecoach disputes. But Unite union officials undermined the action.

Firstly Unite dropped the demand for an equal rate of pay across depots in Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham.

This ended in the union suspending action by workers in Rotherham and Barnsley to consider an offer, leaving those in Sheffield to fight alone.

Also Unite suspended a strike of 400 workers on Cambus, in Cambridge, a subsidiary of Stagecoach. The strikes should have joined to hit the bosses harder.

The fight helped to grow the union’s strength—membership grew from 27 to 150 workers in the build up to the strike. And big picket lines showed workers’ determination throughout the indefinite action, with lots of solidarity from members of other unions.

The action had the potential to win a genuine pay rise.

Around 300 workers at First Manchester busses were set to strike for three days between Tuesday and Thursday of this week.

The members of the Unite union are fighting after bosses refused to backdate any pay increase to August 2021. August is the month when the annual pay increase was due.

More than Nottingham bus drivers have won a 8.3 to 9.3 percent pay rise equating to £1 an hour. The top rate of pay will rise to £13.10 an hour.

Drivers who work for council-owned Nottingham City Transport (NCT) previously rejected a poor offer from bosses.

The revised deal will come into effect on 31 January, two months before the usual anniversary date for pay rises. NCT drivers are now some of the highest paid drivers outside of London.

Climate chaos damaging babies’ health

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Yuri No Comments
Forest fire sweeps a hill side in Greece in 2007 part of climate chaos. Picture: LotusR/Flickr

Forest fire sweeps a hill side in Greece in 2007. Picture: LotusR/Flickr

A new report has found that the last seven years were the hottest on record and that temperatures have already risen by 1.2 degrees from pre-industrial levels.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2021 was the fifth-warmest year ever, with record‑breaking heat in some regions. 

Rising heat has deadly consequences. Six separate studies have found the climate crisis puts both mothers and their babies at risk during pregnancy and after birth. 

One found that births are 16 percent more likely to be premature in areas suffering heatwaves. 

Another study found the prevalence of Fetal gastroschisis, a condition where babies’ intestines extend out of the belly, increases in areas with frequent wildfires.  The scientists that complied the studies wrote, “The evidence is clear. Climate hazards, particularly heat and air pollution, do adversely impact a wide range of reproductive, perinatal and paediatric health outcomes.

“The expected pace of continued climate change and resulting impacts on our physical and mental health and wellbeing calls for decisive and immediate action on adaptation.”

Scientists also concluded it is the poorest and most marginalised mothers and children who are disproportionately harmed by the climate crisis. 

No wonder ever more people are fearful of climate change. 

A new US survey found that six in ten Americans are concerned about climate change, with 33 percent saying they are “alarmed” by the crisis. In the last decade the number saying they are “alarmed” has doubled. Just 9 percent were dismissive of the threat.  The percentage of those “dismissive” has shrunk rapidly in recent years.

Protests against Shell are spreading

Protests are pushing back oil and gas giant Shell. Thousands protested on the beaches of Mar del Plata a tree‑lined coastal city in Argentina earlier this month.

Activists are angry that centre left president Alberto Fernandez has given the go-ahead to Shell and Equinor firms to conduct “seismic exploration” of the Argentine Sea for gas and oil drilling. 

Juan Manuel Ballestero, a surfer and lifeguard on the coast, said that he was against further exploration because of “disastrous data on oil spills in Brazil and Mexico.”