Tuesday, 22 June 2010

IDS's 'anti-poverty drive' attacks the poorest!

From The Socialist

THE NEW government work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, plans the biggest attack on the rights of the most vulnerable people in society in a generation. His plans are presented as an attempt "to improve the quality of life for the worst off in society" but resemble more the 1834 poor law when paupers were forced into the gruelling regime of the workhouse!

Paul Callanan

While this former Tory leader pointed out that many on the dole receive more in benefits than they would earn from a low paid job, his plans will actually attack the claimants rather than his big business mates who are looking for cheap labour.

Labour's previous cheap labour job creation schemes - 'future jobs scheme' and 'flexible new deal' - will be scrapped in favour of a 'community task force' in which unemployed people will be forced to work for voluntary organisations for their dole money. The scheme is likely to be used to drive down the wages, terms and conditions of people who are presently employed.

Many workers fear that the government will try to use claimants as a scab labour force to do the jobs of workers in the course of expected trade union battles over public sector cuts.

The disabled and ill are also in for huge assaults on their living standards under the new plans. People in need of incapacity allowance already find it difficult to claim any benefits under the present strict Work Capability Assessment. Now, all existing receivers of the incapacity allowance will be forced to endure this draconian assessment.

IDS says his only goal is to tackle poverty and help the worst off in society. But rather than eliminating poverty these measures will allow the government to massage the statistics. The choice facing people on benefits will now be poverty on the dole or poverty at work.

To fight these attacks we need to build a mass movement of trade unionists, the unemployed and community campaigners. We need to put forward a clear socialist alternative to the diet of cuts proposed by the politicians and their big business pay masters.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Coming Up in Greenwich

Socialist Party Branch Meeetings:

The Communist Manifesto and it's relevence today
Thursday 3rd of June
Glyndon Community Center
75 Raglan Road
SE18 7LB

Marxists and Religion
Thursday 10th June
Glyndon Community Center
75 Raglan Road
SE18 7LB


By Onay Kasab
In each bulletin we will highlight your rights in different areas. In this bulletin we highlight the rights of agency workers. Agency workers do not have the automatic right to a permanent job, no matter how long the worker has been engaged by a particular employer. Despite this, Socialist Party member Onay Kasab when Unison Branch Secretary won permanent jobs for over 60 agency workers through campaigning on their behalf.
Despite not having permanent job rights, agency workers do have some rights. They are:
The agency must pay you for every hour of work
They must not ask for money to find you work
The agency must tell you in writing how much they are paying you, your terms and conditions and what type of work they will find for you
The agency cannot take money out of your pay for things like equipment, protective clothing or uniforms unless they tell you and you agree
They can charge for extra services, but cannot make you use these services as a condition for finding you work
You also have a right to things like paid holiday and rest breaks.
If there is a union in your workplace, you can join. Unions can and do organise agency workers. They can also win on your behalf as we did in Greenwich.

Our Record

By Onay Kasab

The Socialist Party has a long and proud record of defending our class. We have been to the forefront in defending jobs, services and pay. It is important that these victories are remembered. They show that we can win, that we do not have to accept a diet of cuts. But these victories also show the importance of leadership and correct strategy. In each bulletin, we will highlight these campaigns and the lessons they have for today.

In 1997 local government employers signed a national agreement with the trade unions, the Single Status Agreement. National union leaders claimed that the deal was historic and that it would end low pay forever as well bringing equal pay for women. But Socialist Party members in Unison, the largest Union in Greenwich, correctly warned at the time that the agreement would in fact lead to pay cuts. The agreement was not funded, meaning that the employers would equalise pay by harmonising downwards, cutting the pay of men. We also warned that the employers would use single status as an excuse to cut conditions generally.
By 2006 a number of equal pay cases meant that local government employers were compelled to deal with equal pay. Greenwich Council put forward its proposals. They included:
Pay cuts of up to £130 a week
An increase in the working week with no extra pay
Reductions in annual leave
Cuts to car allowances
Withdrawal of overtime pay and enhancements for weekend and evening working
While this was supposed to be about fairer pay for women, even homecare workers, all of whom were women faced pay cuts. The modest car allowance being cut would also hit this group disproportionatly. A car is essential if homecare workers are to see all their clients in the extremely tight time allotted for travelling between clients homes. Incredibly one Labour Councillor said she only cared about women which was why she supported the proposals! Even more incredibly she claimed that anybody paid in excess of £3000 a year was well paid!
Unisons London regional officials, wedded to New Labour and keen to avoid any confrontation with their chums on the Council advised the union branch that it could be worse and that the local Unison branch, Greenwich Unison, led by Socialist Party member Onay Kasab must accept the proposals. This approach was rejected immediately. The Greenwich Unison Branch built mass meetings of Council workers where a strategy proposed by Onay Kasab to fight the Councils attack on its workers was agreed. The campaign included mass lobbies of the Council and a massive publicity campaign with several publications going out to workers at their home addresses. Crucially, the mass meetings agreed to fight the cuts with strike action if the Council went ahead.
The campaign agreed to reject “concession bargaining” and instead agreed the slogan “Not a single penny from a single member”. The branch agreed to make the old trade union tradition “United We Stand” a reality. The concession bargaining approach would have led to negotiating the rate of pay to be cut or the numbers of staff to have their pay cut. In a number of other Councils this approach has led to unions claiming a victory when the number of staff to have their pay cut has been reduced. But in Greenwich the approach was different. In Greenwich the approach was to protect every member. This approach united manual and clerical staff, men and women. This approach scared the national union leadership who feared it could spread. The level of paranoia was illustrated by threats from the union to discipline Onay Kasab for using the slogan “Not a penny from our pay, nor an hour on the day”. This slogan was used by the miners in the 1926 General Strike. By 2007, cowardly union officials decided that it had become a disciplinary offence. National and London Unison officials wanted Onay to act like the TUC did in 1926, where the workers were sold out by the TUC’s so called leaders. Unisons London leaders claimed that some workers would have to lose so that others could gain. Once again this approach was rejected by Onay Kasab. After initially threatening to impose the cuts, the Council eventually backed down. A total 100% victory was won by the Socialist Party led Greenwich Unison branch. The details of the final agreement were:
Immediate grade increases for all manual workers
All white collar job grades to be reviewed with a guarantee of no pay cuts as a result of lifetime pay protection. Many of these reviews have led to pay increases
Overtime payments, enhancements and pay for weekend and evening working to remain. In fact for many overtime rates increased as a result of the increase in the hourly rate following grade increases.
Compensation for past unequal pay. Some workers received lump sums of £17,000
No increase in working hours. The working week was reduced for manual workers from 36 down to 35, the standard white collar working week.
Annual leave for manual workers was increased to match white collar levels
Car allowances were protected for current staff.
Members were allowed to vote on the final proposals. This was in line with the principles of democracy enacted throughout the campaign. It was a major point for the branch that no agreement could be made with the employers without the members agreeing to it first. It is a tragedy that so many union campaigns end badly where negotiators reach an agreement with the employers then try to sell the agreement to the members. This is the wrong way around. It is the job of the trade union to put proposals to the members for agreement, not to agree with the employers beforehand. Another important lesson was that local stewards were involved in negotiations with the employers where the talks concerned their particular department. This ensured that the employers could not misrepresent negotiations to the workers.
This was the best “single status” agreement in the country. But the national union has failed to publicise this brilliant victory in Greenwich, despite the gains made for workers, especially the lowest paid. The reason is because the union at a national level prefers to compromise, which time after time means in reality agreeing pay cuts. But the victory in Greenwich has shown what can be done with the correct strategy and a fighting Socialist leadership.

School student socialist

From this weeks The Socialist

Thursday 6 May was a very important day for me. Not only was the future of our country being decided, but I was standing for election, as a Socialist Party candidate. Granted, it was only my school mock election, but it was an exciting and, often, nerve-wracking experience nonetheless.

Anna Edgar

I stood as a socialist in this election because, from what I have read of it, the Socialist Party is a party that works for genuine change, unlike the three main parties which are, apart from a few minor differentiations, really the same. Furthermore, I think that the Socialist Party deals with issues head-on, rather than offering only verbal support.

Another reason I was interested in the Socialist Party was probably because of my background - my mum's Russian and grew up in the USSR, so I have heard from her about the positive aspects of the USSR government, as well as the negative aspects which Western media focus on.

As I go to a private school, I never really expected that the socialists would win there. Too many of my school friends have wealthy banker parents, whom the Socialist Party is not particularly well-disposed towards.

Nonetheless, armed with a hastily written speech and a bundle of posters and leaflets (thanks Suzanne) I stood for election.

Despite campaigning by myself and other school socialists, we came fifth out of six parties - followed only by the Green Party. The Liberal Democrats won, with the Monster Raving Loony Party taking second place.

The problem was that not enough people actually evaluated the policies of the individual parties, and made an informed decision on that account.

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed campaigning for the Socialist Party and finding out more about it - and maybe, someday, I'll be standing for election as a real socialist candidate!.


By Onay Kasab

The general election has produced a Con-Dem coalition that is preparing in turn to condemn our communities to years of devastation. Public services are going to be massacred. Jobs are going to be slashed. No section of the working class will be left untouched, young and old, unemployed or in work, we will be expected by the government to pay the cost of the economic crisis. There is a remarkable acceptance in the media that the budget deficit has to be paid for by us, despite the fact that we played no part in its creation. The economy, and indeed the capitalist system, had to be bailed out to the tune of billions following the greedy grabbing of bankers and financiers who thought of nobody but themselves when looting the finance system for their own personal gain. Now these same bankers are again making profits after being bailed out by the rest of us after their system came close to collapse as a result of their selfish greed. So why should we now pay for the debt left following the bail out? None of the major parties are willing to make the bankers pay. Instead, they are going to force us to pay through massive public sector cuts and job losses. While the coalition prepares to make the cuts, we should not let the Labour Party rewrite history. They made clear when campaigning during the election that they too would be making cuts. In Greenwich the Labour Council is preparing £30 million of cuts. Schools have already begun cutting jobs, care workers are to have their pay cut by £5000 per year, Youth and Play Services face privatisation and libraries face closure. The answer is therefore not to fall for the game of in and out played by the major parties who take it in turn to look after big business while cutting our services and attacking the working and middle class. While those with memories of the viciousness of the Tories under Margaret Thatcher held there noses and voted Labour in an effort to keep the Tories out, all three major parties give the same answer on the question of the economy. Clegg and Cameron have shown just how low they are willing to go in defending there class. The poor and low paid will be hammered while big business will be further protected with cuts to corporation tax. This is clear when you consider the cuts being proposed to welfare benefits. It is a fact that disability for many is accompanied by poverty. Disability Living Allowance is a non means tested benefit that does not impact negatively on other benefits such as Council Tax or Housing Benefit. It makes a huge difference to the lives of disabled people. Now the new government is considering measures to cut the numbers of disabled people allowed to claim it. While unemployment is over 2 million and 500,000 jobs are expected to be lost as a result of public sector cuts the government wants to force the unemployed to work for their benefits. This could mean a 35 hour week on less than the minimum wage. Cuts to housing benefit will lead to poorer families being housed in ghettos of low-rental homes. Even proposals to cut the income tax threshold to £10,000 will not benefit the lowest paid workers who are in receipt of rent rebates or council tax benefit. They will see no advantage as the increased net income will mean more of there income will be taken into account when calculating benefits. In fact some may have to pay increased council tax or rents as a result! The Lib Dems will not act as a brake on the anti working class policies of the Tories. The Tories had planned to cut tax credits for families who earn in excess of £40,000. The Lib Dems believe it should be set at £25,000!
Now is the time to begin the fightback. The Labour Party in opposition can not be relied on to lead a fight. We have already seen that they are just as willing to make cuts. What we need is community campaigns with the involvement of trade unions and those who rely on public services to lead the fightback. The Socialist Party will be at the forefront of this fight against the attacks on public services, jobs and our living standards. We will be building an Anti Cuts Alliance in Greenwich to fight the cuts. But we do need national action. We demand a national demonstration against cuts and attacks on our public services.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Urgent Dawn raids on Unison offices!

Ban imposed on four unison branch leaders
Following the mitigation hearings Glenn Kelly (Bromely), Suzanne Muna (Housing Association), Onay Kasab (Greenwich) and Brian Debus (Hackney) have all been banned from holding any office in Unison.

Early this morning (5th March) UNISON officials turned up at the UNISON offices of the Bromley, Greenwich and the Housing Association having given no notice; we are awaiting an update from Hackney. The officials have attempted to confiscate computer hard drives and other resources, which include important documents on on-going personal cases.

The officials intend to run elections for new branch officers but as has happened in other branches they may well try to run the branches themselves which has led to moribund UNISON branches.

The Four have conducted a determined and high profile campaign which has meant that it has taken nearly 3 years to get them banned from office. The mitigation hearings also concluded that the length of the bans will be reduced by between 1 and 3 years.

However, this morning's action shows the vicious reality of the UNISON leaderships attacks on socialist activists within the union.

The four are urging supporters to phone or e-mail UNISON Head Office now to protest against the ban and the raids of the branch offices.

What we need you to do:
1. Let as many unison members as possible know what is happening
2. E-mail letters of protest to:
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis: d.prentis@unison.co.uk
UNISON London Region: greaterlondonregion@unison.co.uk
3. Phone UNISON Head Office to express your disgust on 0845 355 0845
4. Pass a motion at your next meeting to be sent to Dave Prentis.
5. Funds are urgently needed for leaflets, publicity and legal costs.
Cheques payable to: 'Stop the Witch-Hunt' and should be sent to: Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG.

6. Please let us know details of your protests - e-mail us at: info@stopthewitchhunt.org.uk.