Len McCluskey re-elected as Unite General Secretary

 

Len McCluskey

Len McCluskey has been re-elected as Unite’s general secretary.

The result will be seen as a boost for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Len McCluskey’s chief rival Gerard Coyne was seen as the anti-Corbyn candidate. Unite is the Labour Party’s biggest donor.

McCluskey won 59,067 votes,  Coyne 53,544 and Ian Allinson 17,143, in a turnout of just over 12%, Unite said.

Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “I congratulate Len McCluskey on his victory and would urge the entire union to pull together in the interests of our members, and not least to work for a Labour victory in the general election.

He commented on the archaic and expensive balloting system imposed on trade unions by law.

“The sooner we can move to secure and secret workplace and online voting the better for union democracy.”

This result matters because Jeremy Corbyn’s man won.

The Labour leader still has an ally in the figurehead at the top of the country’s biggest union.

Unite has helped bank roll the party.

Len McCluskey’s  Trade Union support helped  Corbyn when certain Labour MPs opposed him.

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Woolwich Ferry staff to strike over sexual harassment

Woolwich Ferry staff set to strike over secretary’s ‘sexual harassment ordeal’

The Evening Standard

Workers are set to go on strike after an alleged four-year campaign of sexual harassment.

Travellers face disruption tomorrow due to the dispute, which also involves claims of a “bullying culture”.

About 95 per cent of the workforce are set to walk out after a member of staff made a formal complaint of sexual harassment.

The Unite union said this was among “a number of serious allegations” into which management “had failed to make sufficient progress”.

The Standard has learned that in December Tara Brackley, a secretary for Briggs Marine Contractors, which runs the service on behalf of Transport for London, claimed a member of staff had sexually harassed her for years.

Allegations: Tara Brackley says she has suffered four years of sexual harassment

She said her formal grievance was being handled “terribly”, and now her union is going on strike.

Briggs Marine said it was “disappointed” by the decision and “refutes the allegations of stalling being set out by Unite”.

Ms Brackley told union officials she had been keeping a dossier of the alleged misconduct since 2013, but had not raised it previously out of the fear of losing her job.

She told the Standard the man would regularly make lewd comments towards her. She said: “He constantly told me he loved me, that I looked attractive, blowing kisses, sneakily squeezing my shoulders, rubbing and stroking my neck, eyeing me up and down sexually, whispering in my ear, telling me we should run away together — it made me feel very, very uncomfortable. He would not stop even when I asked him to.”

He once rubbed his crotch in front of her, simulating sex, and attempted to playfight with her, she said.

Ms Brackley, 43, who has a long-term partner, said she was considering taking the matter to an employment tribunal. “It was just disgusting behaviour,” she said.

“This man intimidated me. They were all friends and I had no one in the office to turn to. The way the company has handled it has been awful.”

A friend said: “She would leave the office in tears. It was on an almost daily basis.”

Her complaint coincided with a breakdown in industrial relations between the union and the company over a number of other disputes, including alleged health and safety breaches.

The union said staff had been ordered to work in the hull of a boat where exhaust fumes were leaking, causing one worker to be hospitalised. It also claimed managers took “shortcuts” in fixing one of the lifeboats, which could have left it unusable.

Workers walked out this year before suspending action so talks could take place. About 80 staff were set to walk out on Tuesday but the strike was suspended to allow for more talks. A decision whether to proceed with tomorrow’s 24-hour strike will take place today.

Unite officer Onay Kasab, who called senior managers “intransigent, evasive and prone to stalling”, said enough progress had been made to suspend Tuesday’s action, including a management restructuring.

But he said: “Other issues remain, including investigating the case of alleged sexual harassment, and health and safety and allowances.” The GMB union is also involved.

The ferry, which links Woolwich and North Woolwich, carries about a million vehicles and more than two million passengers a year.

Briggs Marine said Unite had been “kept up to date with the progress of investigations”. It said: “We have been unwavering in our willingness to hold productive talks and to investigate the issues raised with us thoroughly and fairly.

“Our discussions with Unite and GMB continue and, if at all possible, we will avoid strike action. In terms of the specific issues being raised by Unite, these are currently under investigation and we are unable to comment.”

Leon Daniels, TfL’s director of surface transport, said Briggs Marine and the unions should “resolve this dispute as quickly as possible”.

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Strike action for BMW Plant Swindon sees Workers Fighting for their Pensions.

PRODUCTION at Plant Swindon is expected to fall silent today when around 750 BMW employees walk out in a dispute over pensions.

Members of the union Unite walked out in the first day of strike action this morning at the panel production plant in a generation.

This marks the first in a series of 24 hour strikes as part of a programme of industrial action stretching over five weeks over the closure of their pension scheme.

Picket lines have not appeared at Plant Swindon since 1986 when the production line was under the ownership of British Leyland, but today Swindon workers will be joined by colleagues striking at BMW’s other production plants in Cowley and Hams Hall in the West Midlands, marking the first ever strike by BMW’s UK workforce.

Workers were asked to take to the pickets outside the plants from early this morning with placards accusing BMW of ‘pension robbery’ and demanding the car maker stops ‘driving off’ with their pensions by forcing through changes which could see some lose up to £160,000 in their retirement income.

Swindon Unite regional officer John McGookin said the union expected all union members – some 750 workers – to walk out across the three shifts throughout the day, with the first shift clocking on at 6am starting the industrial action.

He said: “We are trying to persuade BMW to listen to its workforce. They are not happy with the proposed closure of the pension scheme. They want the company to enter into meaningful talks with them.

“They want to be able to retire with dignity.”

He added that it was important members of the public understood that workers had been on a long road toward industrial action.

He said: “We want the public to understand that nobody takes industrial action lightly. This is the first form of action they have taken in a generation.

“The workers want people to understand that this is their last resort.”te

A spokesman for BMW UK said;

“Like many businesses, we know that the costs and risks associated with defined benefit pension schemes makes them unsustainable and unaffordable in the long term.

 But Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “BMW’s refusal to discuss affordable options to keep the pension scheme open means that for the first time its UK workforce will be taking strike action.

“It is very much the last resort for a world class workforce that takes great pride in making the iconic Mini and world renowned Rolls-Royce motor cars and one which could have been avoided if BMW’s bosses had been willing to negotiate meaningfully with Unite.

“Instead BMW has paid lip service to the concerns of a workforce whose hard work and efficiency has helped the German carmaker achieve record sales amid surging profits and sought to pinch their pensions.

“BMW’s bosses should be under no illusion of the determination of Unite members to defend their pensions. They are in this for the long haul.

“We would urge BMW to drop its 31 May deadline to close the pension scheme and avoid the disruption of continued industrial action by negotiating a settlement which is good for the business and good for the workforce.”

BMW’s plan to close the pension scheme by May 31 comes as latest figures showed a surge in BMW Group’s net profit of eight per cent to €6.9 billion, as well as a record year for Mini sales and a six per cent rise in Roll-Royce sales.

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The Local elections, on May 7th, on the Isle of Wight reveal how Renewal of the Democratic System should now operate.

If there is to be any renewal of the democratic system it surely has to deal with this issue of selection of candidates.

Only in the last 3 months did the Independents lose control of the Council to the Conservatives. Over a number of years, the first past the post system, reflected in the Representative Democracy System at local level has been Party dominated. In the last election the discredited Conservative Party lost control with the appearance of “Independents”, many of whom held or professed no allegiance to any Party. As we know there were those who felt it necessary to declare themselves as “Independent, independents”, some shifted allegiances once elected, whereas the bulk of Independents formed a grouping. The Independent administration held the balance of power for nearly 4 years. The shift towards a Conservative takeover occurred half-way through the administration’s term with some Independents reneging over their affiliations and switching allegiance to the Conservatives.

The day is almost over for the rule and dictate of “Parties in Power”. Parties that assume control, folow a whip and represent the Party rather than the people. Some say that local councils should be non-political so that all councillors can work together for the benefit of residents, but this misses the point, the people and their candidates, the polity, should be political not just leaving it to the established elite politcians. There can be no objection in principle to declaring which party one belongs to, infact a mass political party that operates on behalf of people is essential but this is not the same as forming a bloc in power. Any Party’s role is changing to one that politicises rather than assumes power itslf but empowers the people. To do so means that new mechanisms for selection and empowerment are necessary. This is what democratic renewal of the local political system seems to be about.

Naturally people have recognised the flaw in the system and proposed changes like proportional representation but this has not really offered a challenge to Representative Democracy, which needs to be replaced by a more effective form of Direct Democracy and empowerment from the bottom. It only benefits new and rising Parties that can maybe then participate in the electoral system.

The Party system at local level leaves you with the kind of thing we have with a “Coup Council” manipulating the electorate from the top. At present, on the island, they represent the Conservative Party and not their constituents and they rule arbitrarily keeping their positions through favours to their masters at the very top at Conservative Party central office.

This is why people are sick of politicians who appear divorced from us. There has to be something closer to the voter, people they know and can trust. Candidates are parachuted in and even some have changed Party to jump on a popular Party bandwagon. Some Parties seek to ensure control by the use of paper candidates who are used to fill empty seats in completely different towns. Some candidates seem to just materialise at election time then vanish into the wilderness.

Established political party organisers are not always acting honestly and simply wish to give electors the chance or choice to vote for their Party, if ithey can’t always find anyone willing to stand in a given ward. It is not necessarily genuine or legitimate with the best intentions at heart. The established Parties cannot really be trusted as they have their own agendas. So it turns out that it is not a choice about views, which are more often than not rarely presented anyway,  in fact it is possibly no choice at all.

The system needs to change so that candidates live in the ward to stand for election. Candidates need to be selected, proposed and seconded by neighbours.

It is why people are exercising their ability to buck the system, the establishment and the establishment Parties.These representatives are bound to appear divorced from the people. They were given the opportunity in the referendum over the European Union and returned a Brexit vote. The implications have been worldwide with the situation in the United States being the most astonishing where the people wanted to buck the establishment. Unfortunately they have ended up with another pro-establishment figurehead with Trump.

There must be new mechanisms set up to select local people we know and can trust. If there is no change, no democratic renewal, people are liable to switch off completely saying that these politicians mean nothing at all and their decision making will make people say, “These politicians do what they want but I didn’t put them there!”

Of course there are genuine and honest people but they will have to make electoral change one of their policy decisions otherwise they will be lumped in with the rest.

Some opportunist band-wagoners are even jumping ship here.This is why last time people went “Independent” but the experience is that they too have only changed title as the emperor wears new clothes.

Modern circumstances mean that things cannot continue in the old way. People feel disenfranchised. The essence of change has to be renewal of the system and process and a fundamental question in this is that of selection. People are not only misinformed, a lack of information about creating and effecting good policy that serves people, they are not provided with the means to select local candidates. People need the means as well as the knowledge so that they can act and also find out what politics is best.

 

Notes:

Election Commentators have already pointed out:

Conservatives are fielding a candidate in every ward on the Isle of Wight for May 2017

Vanessa Churchman (Havenstreet, Ashey and Haylands ) Independent 2009 elections, lost to the Tories in 2013 as an Independent, now she’s back as a Tory, and she lives in Luccombe.

In Ventnor Cllr Perks defecting to the Tories, he was UKIP, Also Ewan Smith-Wainwright an ex UKIP member just joined the Tories, living in Ventnor and standing for Godshill and Wroxall.

Julie Jones Evans, (ex Tory, jumping ship during her current term 2013 to date, to become an Independent), voting with the Tories on many occasions. She is now standing as undeclared.

Stephen Hastings, is also standing in Newport Central. Standing in Newport East against the incumbent Geoff Lumley]. Presumably Mr. Hastings a Portsmouth Councillor for Baffins Ward 22/05/2014 – 03/05/2018 term of office, Tory then UKIP for two years, Elected UKIP MAY 2014, then back to the Tories within days after the General Election in May 2015 !! and now here on IOW. Should have resigned after being elected for UKIP then within a year defecting back to the Tories.

Cllr Whitehouse lives in Totland, standing in Newport again

Paul Brading Lake South, Gary Peace Ventnor, Who are the candidates standing in Brading St Helen’s and Bembridge ? Binstead? Not many of the local electorate has ever heard of any of these.

Mr and Mrs Collis live in Ryde, he is standing for East Cowes, she is standing for Ryde East , she lives in Ryde. Richard Hollis lives in Cowes, he is the candidate for Parkhurst

Gerry White is now standing for UKIP ? He was the local Tory candidate meant to stand in Lake North and has been involved in many fund raising events for the Tories.

The Conservatives have their two voting partners Richard Priest and Jon Gilbey there already, also ‘undeclared’ as to party/political affiliation but last time Priest was an Independent.

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Exeter Political Forum:

An Invitation to the Exeter Political
Forum on the Future of Society

Saturday, May 20, 2017, 11:00 am (registration) – 5:00 pm
To participate, contact  us at the Trades Council.

The times are crying out for the working class and people to take control of the future of society. This Political Forum in the West Country is one of a series taking place in cities and regions throughout Britain which are discussing this issue and what is necessary to achieve this.

We invite all democratic forces and working people of all nationalities and from all walks of life, especially young people and those involved in the struggle for a change in direction of society, to participate and contribute to the discussion. Bring your views, your questions, your concerns and energise the discussion. Present your vision of a better future, a new direction.

The workers’ and people’s movements are affirming that the problems facing society, including the danger of war, the destruction of the manufacturing base, and the trampling on the rights of all human beings, demand resolution and that working people – youth, women, workers, the people as a whole – are the force that can bring about change.

Let us work out together how to realise a modern society and take control of the future, in a situation where what is absent today is the ability, the power, of the working class and people to take control of their lives and be the decision-makers.   Let us together discuss the concrete work and practical politics required to ensure the success of the pro-social movements of the people and remove the blocks to the progress of society.

This is the 21st century, and the times demand that an aim is set for society which is new and human-centred. Let us join together to affirm the necessity for change, change which empowers the people to gain control over their lives and work, which is their right. History is made by ordinary people achieving extraordinary things on the basis that there is an alternative!

Together let us chart a new path!

You can express your interest in participating in this programme by contacting us at the Trades Council.

For further details of the programme of political forums taking place in cities and regions throughout the country, visit :

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Teachers to Strike over Cuts:

Teachers’ union threatens strike over school budget cuts

Boys walk into school

Strike action over funding cuts in England’s schools has been backed by the National Union of Teachers.

The union’s annual conference voted to use an existing ballot over funding to stage a one-day school strike in their challenge over budget shortages.

Teachers say that spending cuts are leading to job losses, timetable cuts and courses being cancelled.

But the Department for Education says that spending on schools is at the “highest level on record”.

But this claim has been rejected by teachers, who point to a real-terms 8% cut as a result of unfunded extra costs, as well as changes from a new funding formula.

‘I’ve had enough’

Speaking after the vote at the union’s conference in Cardiff, the NUT’s general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said he would consult his union’s members before pushing ahead with any strike, national or regional.

However, as the union has an active ballot for strike action valid until August 31, this could be used as the legal basis for strikes.

Jo Yurky
Campaigner Jo Yurky says schools are having to cut back on the basics such as books and heating

He said: “There are places where the cuts are so bad and the degree of concern so big that strike action is a real possibility. We will consult with colleagues in the regions about the readiness of members to do this.

“If Justine Greening announces the funding formula is changing to make things even worse in some areas, that would be very likely to raise the level of anger in those areas to a point where action will take place.”

Jo Yurky, founder of the parents’ campaign group, Fair Funding For All Schools, claimed that budget shortages had left schools worrying about money for heating – to the extent that in one school pupils had to wear their coats and hats in the classroom.

The NASUWT teachers’ union, also holding its annual conference this weekend, has warned that parents are being asked for money to make up for school budget shortages.

Speaking in favour of a one-day strike, Cleo Lewis, a delegate from Lewisham, south-east London, said: “I’ve had enough. It’s just too much. Nothing gets changed by sitting around and discussing.

“We can sit and discuss until we are blue in the face.

“The government are not accepting our nice words. We need to show them we are serious.”

James Kerr, also from Lewisham, south-east London, said: “We need a strategy that can win on cuts.”

Jacqueline Baker told the conference that in her school a teacher had been asked to teach Spanish without knowing a single word of the language.

But a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We have protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42bn by 2019-20.

“We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, and we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in the most cost effective ways, so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact.”

BBC

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NHS: The “5-Year Forward View”

The Rationing of Health care and the Delaying of
Operations Should Not Be Happening in a Modern Society


Massive London demonstration March 4 – It is Our NHS!

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, announced on March 31 that the NHS is significantly relaxing the requirement on hospitals to treat, within 18 weeks, 92% of patients in England who are waiting for a hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other “non-urgent operation”. He claimed that rolling back the target, which has stood for the past ten years, was necessary so that hospitals could “concentrate on more urgent priorities”, particularly in terms of “easing the strain on overloaded A&E departments, as well as enhancing access to GPs and improving the treatment of cancer and mental health care.”

However, not only does the announcement expose the incoherence of the NHS policy objectives announced by government and NHS alike, but also the whole aim of wrecking the national system of health and social care in England in favour of the privatisation of care and the interests of private providers.

Firstly, this latest announcement starkly contradicts an earlier policy objective that was so prominently promoted by the Government – especially in relation to the junior doctors’ dispute – for hospitals to operate elective care seven days a week to purportedly reduce waiting lists and improve patient survival rates from operations. Of course, the reality was entirely the opposite. Rather than put in the investment necessary to achieve 7-day elective care, the government continued its massive cuts, which have pushed hospitals to the brink of disaster over recent months.

Secondly, NHS England’s “5 Year Forward View” launched in 2014 outlines how it intends to transform healthcare by 2020, with strong hints that greater rationing of some types of care was imminent. The plan refers to a system where more patients will be offered online advice, where GPs are being expected to refer fewer people to hospital and that NHS England will expand the use of “referral management processes”, which are private companies that decide whether a doctor’s referral to a consultant, or to have an operation, is justified. However, it is clear that Stephens has gone further than this with his “new” plan to no longer guarantee a timescale for “non-urgent operations”. He says this is consistent with the “5 Year Forward View”. It is therefore of no surprise that the private health companies are the ones that will profit out of this misery as patients who have savings will have to pay huge sums for treatment while those who cannot pay will continue to suffer. Apart from the increasing number of people who will be forced to pay privately for operations, Stephens also hinted that the private sector’s direct involvement in the NHS would also be the beneficiary of the rationing of “non-urgent operations” when he said that he expected that “the number of operations that the NHS pays for will continue to go up.”

Thirdly, while Stephens talks about delaying “non-urgent operations” and mentions operations that are already subject to long delays, he refuses to address the fact that “urgent” operations are now already included in these delays as the continued cutbacks and “cost improvement programmes” to intensive care units and acute beds is implemented right across England.

Reporting on the announcement, the British Medical Association (BMA) pointed out that the inability of the NHS to meet all of its waiting time targets showed that it was at breaking point. BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter said: “Achieving one delivery promise only by missing another is a textbook example of rationing access to care. It should not be happening in today’s NHS.”

It is this observation that gets to the nub of the problem. The rationing of healthcare and the delaying of operations, even if they are “non-urgent”, should not be happening, not only in today’s NHS but in any modern society. Such an outmoded and outdated conception is only consistent with a capital-centred view of the economy, where public services like the NHS and all social programmes are considered a “cost and a burden”. Such a view refuses to acknowledge that there is such a thing as society and the social responsibility for every human being to build an economy that meets the claims of the people. It is a barbaric remnant of the past in the modern age, where people who need a hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other “non-urgent operation” should join a long queue and suffer, or pay the private healthcare and insurance monopolies from which only the rich benefit. In other words, today’s NHS and society should be directed towards recognising the right of all to a modern health and social care system.

What has also to be recognised in building the movement to safeguard the future of the NHS is that today’s NHS is based on the conception of the NHS which was formed in 1948. But even in 1948, the conception of the NHS was never fully recognised as a right of all human beings and the rich were able to ration healthcare and delay operations while they were also able to jump the queue by paying for private care. This therefore raises the most important question that it has to become a right on a new basis today. Modern Britain and the developed world is even more at the stage where the productive forces have become completely socialised and every section of society and every community is dependent on that socialised economy. Such a society requires social relations for that socialised economy that serve the interests of all. In other words, it requires modern arrangements in empowering the whole population to chart the direction for society and its economy, where health and social care is recognised and guaranteed as a right.

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