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In Parliament

Promises, promises

Yesterday, we got a little glimpse of what the Tories really think Brexit means for our rights.

The Brexit Select Committee met yesterday, and took evidence on life after Brexit for what they call ‘regulations’ (and what we would probably call ‘rights’, ‘standards’ or ‘protections’).

Since the Referendum, the Tories have been offering some warm words on workplace rights. Of course they’ll all be protected, they promise…

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An Interview with Daniel Zeichner MP

Name: Daniel Zeichner
 
Constituency: Cambridge
 
Role in Parliament: MP for Cambridge and delighted to be appointed by Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow Transport Minister with responsibility for buses, bikes and walking!

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A Woman's Place is in her Union

Cat_blog.pngSome 40 years after the Equal Pay Act came into force women still on average earn 19 per cent less than men; among part-time workers, the gap yawns to 38 per cent. One in four women are in low-paid or insecure work and women continue to be concentrated in the five Cs (catering, cleaning, caring, cashiering and clerical) – valuable jobs that deserve higher pay and more respect. But these sectors are scarred by the rise in more insecure, precarious working with agency working, temporary, zero and short-hours contracts. These types of working  make it hard to calculate what earnings will be and to arrange childcare.

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Getting to know Wes Streeting

unionstogether are getting to know some our newest Labour MPs with a quick fire interview. Next up is Wes Streeting, elected in May 2015:

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A quick interview with Paula Sherriff MP

We're getting to know some of the new intake of Labour MPs elected in May 2015 with a quick fire interview. First up is Paula Sherriff MP:

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The Trade Union Bill is an abuse of power from a government well versed in doing just that.

The Trade Union Bill will be put through its final stages in the Commons today. It has been a demonstration of political power at its most naked.

Let’s not mince our words here - this is a Conservative Party drunk on their first majority for nearly two decades, using the state and the full weight of the law as an outlet for their own party political prejudice.

With strike days at record lows and after absolutely no calls from employers it is hard to see why this Bill was considered a legislative priority.

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This despicable Trade Union Bill must be opposed by all who value freedom

The Tories’ Trade Union Bill is illegal, illiterate and illiberal.

 Illegal because it breaches the UK’s international legal obligations.

 Illiterate because it is incoherent, inconsistent, bureaucratic and nonsensical.

 And illiberal because it requires government officials to snoop into union affairs, seize documents and impose fines – all at the union’s own expense.

As trailed in the Tory Manifesto and the Queen’s Speech, unions will face additional restrictions before members can take action which is legally protected. The ballot will require not just a majority of those voting, but a majority of those entitled to vote, a threshold which denies the democratic will of those choosing to take part in the ballot and effectively treats a failure to vote as a “No” vote.

 Additional restrictions are imposed in “important public services”, a wider definition than the “essential public services” in existing law. This applies not just to those directly providing the service, but also those involved in ancillary activities, like cleaners in a hospital. In these “important public services”, not only must there be a majority voting “Yes” and a 50% turnout, but 40% of those entitled to vote must have voted in favour.

It’s a cruel injustice that the Tories regard these activities as “important public services” for the purposes of curtailing trade union activities, yet they don’t think those services should be provided by the public sector and have privatised many of them.

There will be even more new requirements to satisfy before a ballot is legal.

The ballot paper must now include “a reasonably detailed indication of the matters in issue in the trade dispute”, “the types of industrial action” contemplated and when the action is likely to take place. This is all designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, for a union to comply with the law, to deter members from voting in favour of action and to give employers the maximum opportunity for legal challenge.

If the union manages to satisfy all of this, and members vote in favour of action, the union will now be required to give two weeks’ notice before action can start (rather than one week as previously) and will have to re-ballot if the action continues for more than four months.

Pickets are to be turned into criminals, by requiring the union appoint a picket supervisor who must report to the police. The legislation goes into ridiculous detail even requiring the picket supervisor to “wear a badge, armband or other item” to identify them. This smacks of something from the 1930s.

Under the Tory Bill, unions will only be able to receive political fund contributions from those members who have opted in, in writing, to the political fund. Every union will have only three months from when the new Act becomes law to sign up members to the political fund.  This is an impossible task, designed to prevent unions from spending money on campaigning as well as a nakedly political attack on opposition to the Tory government and the funding of the Labour Party.

It is a blatant manoeuvre to shut down democracy and debate and an outright assault on freedom of expression and protest.

It’s reinforced by requiring unions to publish details of all their political expenditure, giving details of every amount over £2000, who it was paid to and the nature of it.

The Bill imposes absurdly bureaucratic requirements on public authorities to publish minutely detailed data on union officials employed by them who are carrying out union activities or duties.

The intention is clearly to deter public employers from allowing facility time, even where it is agreed, with the further aim of preventing union officials from having the time and resources to represent their members. And, if that isn’t enough, the government also gives itself the power to impose regulations which would restrict the amount of facility time employers can actually give.

To cap it all, the Bill seeks to transform the role of the Certification Officer from a neutral adjudicator on union law and rules into a state snooper. The Certification Officer will be required to investigate all sorts of internal union issues, whether or not any member has complained, demand documents and issue orders against the union which can be enforced, not only by the Certification Officer, but by any union member. And unions must pay for the privilege of this by paying a levy to fund the Certification Officer.

Trade unions are voluntary, democratic organisations, essential in a free society. No other organisations face such state intrusion and restriction on their activities.

This Bill is the work of a vindictive Tory Party using the levers of government for its own political ends, seeking to outlaw legitimate protest and opposition, stifle free speech and choke off the finances and resources of political opponents.

It must be opposed by everyone who values freedom and the rule of law.

Jo Stevens is the Labour Member of Parliament for Cardiff Central


unionstogether Live Blog - The Budget

18th March: 17.45 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And here's the tea-time summary - covering some of the response from the trade-unions. There's some quality stuff in there...

18th March: 16.50 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is fantastic c/o Jon Trickett.

Don't, whatever you do, choose him...

18th March: 16.30 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ouch! Len McCluskey is having a good go here - we've summarised it for you: 

18th March: 15.46 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Right - too much Financial Times and not enough Left Economic Advisory Panel leaves a person slightly demoralised.

So here's their view on today's budget with it's 'brutal plans for a £13bn cut in public services and a £12bn cut in welfare.

You can see more here, if you like http://leapeconomics.blogspot.co.uk/ and we know you do.

18th March: 15.42 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This from James Landale of the BBC sums it up. The Tories are plotting an assault on our public services not seen before...

 18th March: 14.59 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some more budget reaction from the GMB - a classic line from our very own Paul Kenny:

18th March: 14.40 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

More graphs! But this is important so bear with us.

The OBR sounding the siren here, talking of a "sharp acceleration" in pace of cuts.

 

 You can see the offending graph here:

The Tories haven't detailed how they are going to make these unprecedented cuts on top of a Parliament that has already hit ordinary people.

What are they hiding?

18th March: 14.23 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This graph puts pay to the lie, which Osborne has repeated again today, that "we're all in this together". 

It shows that aside from the very rich, it is the poorest fifth who have been forced to bear the biggest burden of austerity. 

With a further £38bn of cuts still to come, how can we trust a Chancellor who attacks those at the bottom?

18th March: 13.55 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Oh, at last - a bit of sense.

According to the Financial Times, the Corporation Tax cut costs over £5bn per year. Where will the money come from for that? Our schools? Our health service?

18th March: 13.48 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Miliband has a go at Osborne on the extreme cuts proposed by Osborne - he didn't deny that he would introduce them today:

They are the very same cuts which the austere NAO were so concerned about they warned publically that it could "threaten the health of the public sector"

18th March: 13.39 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ed Miliband is up:

He leads on the fact that Osborne has put taxes up 24 times on working families and then poses as their friend. Here's a cool graphic from the Class think tank which proves it:

18th March: 13.27 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In this 'no-gimmick' budget - the Chancellor has just announced a cut in the price of a pint by a whole penny. We've done our sums and calculated that if you take into account the fall in real-wages - you'd need to have 684 pints a day just to break even.


Your round, Chancellor!

18th March: 13.14 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As Osborne crows about "all being in this together" there are plenty of people telling the real story. Here's a snapshot of the reaction so far. It's not exactly good for the Chancellor...

The JRF:

 

Eoin Clarke:

Unite the Union:

Gingerbread: 

 

18th March: 12.44 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Osborne is now moving onto the "jobs recovery"

He argues that the "lowest-paid are those which suffer most when the economy fails".

We at unionstogether couldn't agree more - annoyingly for George Osborne we work more for less under the Tories. Average pay for workers is down £2,500 under the Tories.

 

Osborne is up for Budget 2015. 

He starts with "Britain is paying its way" - but keen-eyed followers will know that this Coalition will leave behind more debt than all other Labour governments combined!

Why?

Because the low-pay recovery has dramatically lowered tax take.

 

18th March: 12.24 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is hard to get excited about a recovery where 80% of jobs created are in industries where pay is an average of £8 or less. Cameron and Osborne talk about a 'national recovery for all' but they don't mean it.

C/o our Comrades at the Trade Union Group

 

18th March: 12.11 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This video from the TUC nails the problem for the Chancellor. His low-pay recovery is the reason why he can't fix the deficit.

The Chancellor is collecting 57% less tax than he said he would.

 

18th March: 11.57 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Before the sound and fury, some solid facts from the sober IFS - poorest households hit hardest by Tory choices via Left Foot Forward: 

18th March: 11.49 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bloomin eck! Look! A shiny twelve-sided pound coin to distract us.

18th March: 11.41 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As the Budget approaches have a quick look at these figures from Rachel Reeves - nearly half of all new jobs created have been in the low paid sectors. Is this what Osborne means about a 'truly national recovery'?

 

18th March: 11.32 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Britain's largest public-service union wading in this morning on the government's ideological assault on the public sector. Do you really want to go back to the 1930s?

18th March: 11.24 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What is not to love about this video from Sigoma? Game of Thrones, drama and a serious message about the total inequality in cuts to local authorities which have lost 40% of their core funding under this Government.

18th March: 11.17 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's often what you don't say rather than what you do. Here's a few things you're unlikely to hear from George Osborne today...

18th March: 10.53 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's a timely reminder from the New Statesman. An eye-watering 60% of planned cuts are still to come:

18th March: 10.18 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, there's a surprise - a hefty majority of the British public don't trust George Osborne. With average wages for workers falling by £2,500 since Osborne came to power, we aren't shocked. You can find the Mirror graph here.

18th March: 09.44 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Feels like an opportune time to quietly highlight the scoop from the raging lefties at the Financial Times yesterday:

"Radical cuts threaten the health of the public sector".

Sir Amyas Morse, who heads up the National Audit Office, warned that 'if you're going to do radical surgery it would be nice to know where the heart us. You're slightly more likely not to stick the knife in by mistake". So that's them told.

18th March: 09.31 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Do you shout at the tele when Osborne droans on about his achievements? Well now you can channel that rage into constructive arguments courtesy of our bright Comrades at Left Foot Forward:

Here's what they've got to say on the deficit and why it is almost three times bigger than he expected. The message? Austerity doesn't work!

 

18th March: 09.25 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A little aside - Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA, is in line with the vast majority of the British public this morning:

18th March: 09.02 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In amongst the sound & fury of budget day, just take a moment to read this from the Morning Star - "Privateers' dirty hands all over failed NHS trust". The battle to Save our NHS has only just got started...

18th March: 08.39 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Interesting from Matt Pennycook - evidence suggests the cut in the personal allowance won't be particularly effective in helping the low-paid as many have already been taken out of tax altogether http://www.ifs.org.uk/budgets/gb2014/gb2014_ch7.pdf.

18th March: 08.29 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Oh eck - this is good from @38Degrees. George Osborne has talked a tough game on tax avoidance but he is losing billions of pounds per year in tax avoidance. That money could transform our society. Have a look how long it would take him to lose your tax:

18th March: 08.18 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Our Comrades over at Socialist Economic Bulletin getting stuck in. Austerity doesn't cut the deficit.

18th March: 08.06 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This cracking article from the New Economics Foundation reveals some of the budget myths. Here's a snapshot - head over to NEF for the full whack:

18th March: 08.00 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We rather liked this...

18th March: 07.52 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fresh from putting housing firmly on the agenda which you can see here if you're interested - and let's be honest you should be - TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady talks jobs guarantees, fair pay and British Investment Banks in her Budget Day Message:

18th March: 07.42 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's Budget Day 2015 - welcome to our live blog. We'll be bringing you alternative news & views from the last act of this useless Government.

Start the day with this scorching article from Ian Lavery MP - former President of the NUM and Trade Union Group Chair http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/ian_lavery.

 

17th March: 18.40 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Join us tomorrow for the final budget of this grim Parliament - we'll be bringing you totally impartial news and views on the last act of this union-bashing, millionaire-tax-cutting, NHS-privatising, real-wage-cutting, poverty-increasing Government.

Here's some required reading to keep you busy until the morning - unionstogether Chair and GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny, telling it like it is:


The Tories have once again left whole communities behind - Ian Lavery

On the eve of the final budget of this depressing Parliament – the first in living memory where the standard of living for ordinary men and women is worse at the end than it was at the start – the Tories have given us one final reminder of who they are - and more importantly who they stand up for.

A document leaked to the Guardian revealed that the Tories are plotting a major tax-giveaway ‘designed to benefit the most wealthy’. The measure would potentially save some of the wealthiest households – in homes worth up to £2million – a massive £140,000 each.

It will cost the Treasury £1bn.

And yet, at the same time, they are claiming to try to “save” the same £1bn which they would give away so freely in a pre-election bribe, by introducing the Bedroom Tax – a cruel and punitive tax which has devastated families in my community and beyond.

The government call it “tough choices” and move on.

But for a young man in my constituency, hit by the tax, this isn’t academic – his weekly income has dropped from £72 to £47 and he can no longer afford the basics in life.

And it isn’t academic for the social worker - working harder and harder to maintain the service for the clients they care desperately about - despite massive cuts and a pay-freeze which has lasted 4 years and left them demoralised.

Let’s be clear - this is a Government which has made political choices and dressed it up as necessity. A Tory government which has once again abandoned, or ignored, communities like my own while giving a tax cut to millionaires worth £100,000.

And a Government which intends to plough on with its attack on the poorest with a further £12bn in welfare cuts.

Their own figures even show that 30% of children in the North-East are now living in poor households once living costs are factored in.

But this lot have made their political choices – Osborne’s final budget won’t address the problems of low-pay, insecurity or inequality – so we need to get out there and kick them out ourselves.

 Ian Lavery is the Labour MP for Wansbeck in the North-East, Chair of the Trade Union Group of Labour MPs and former President of the National Union of Mineworkers. 


The Low Pay Scandal - Angela Rayner

Two hundred thousand care workers are paid below the minimum wage. By refusing to cover mileage and for travel in between clients, private firms do their staff out of £850 per year. 

For people already struggling to get by on pay which doesn’t even cover the basics, that makes life very hard.

I know because this happened to me. And when you’re on next to nothing then being paid for mileage and for the time it takes to travel between homes can make a huge difference.

It should be a national scandal, a disgrace, that those public servants who look after our elderly and most vulnerable, who work hard in incredibly tough circumstances are so disregarded that private firms can get away without paying even the barest minimum.

This makes me angry and let’s be honest, it would make most people angry too.

But for the 1.2million care-workers employed by private firms it doesn’t stop there. 80% of them are also engaged on zero-hours contracts with no guarantee of work from one week to the next.

But because they don’t have rich and powerful friends the Government haven’t listened to them. In fact on zero-hours contracts the Government even whipped their MPs to vote in Parliament to keep them. It is a scandal.

I was lucky, I eventually managed to get a job at my local council which valued and invested in its employees and for the past fifteen years, first as a care-worker and now a full-time trade union official and parliamentary candidate I have fought to make a difference for some of our most important but lowest-paid workers.

We campaigned to keep vital care services in-house, for instance, not only saving the council money but crucially stopping redundancies and pay cuts in the process.

But without a Labour government, there is only so much we can do. And make no mistake, a Labour government would make a huge difference to the people I have worked with and alongside my whole life.

Raising the minimum wage and clamping down on employers who illegally underpay would put that £850 that I and my colleagues missed out on back in our pockets and then some.

It is clear that for the millions of low-paid workers in the care services and beyond they need a party and a government which will stand up for them. If I win the support of people in Ashton-under-Lyne come May I will work night and day to make sure their voices are heard in the corridors of power.

Angela Rayner is a former care-worker at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council and currently Regional Convenor for UNISON elected to represent 200,000 public sector workers across the North West. She is also Labour's candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne, you can find out more about her here www.angelarayner.com/.



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