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Thursday, 27 December 2012

ASLEF Tube Driver Strike: Look beyond the picket line to see the real story..

On Boxing Day, ASLEF members employed by London Underground Limited (LUL) staged a 24hr strike, and the press have been predictable in attempting to whip up hysteria and outrage against both the Tube Drivers exercising their legal and human right, as well as the union itself. 

Whilst this dispute centres around a long standing disagreement regarding pay for Bank Holidays, I find the arguments thrown around by histrionic journalists, and right wing agitators to be as infinitely interesting, as they are hypocritical.  

The people trying hardest to contaminate the truth about the tube strike are slavish and blind devotees to the power of the markets, who habitually champion the cause of letting the value of component parts determine the final destination, unless that final destination is a well paid workforce.

These people believe it is fine for millionaire bankers and tax dodging CEOs grow ever richer, ignoring the disgusting pay disparities between the shop floor and the board room, yet, when a group of 'ordinary' workers benefit from these mysterious market forces , the very same 'free marketeers' suddenly become extremely hot under the collar!

Right wing papers, and Conservative mouth pieces have been quick to underline the salaries of Tube Drivers. Nobody can deny that the Pay & Conditions are streets ahead of what many workers, experience.  

But that pay reflects an arduous working cycle, decimated family life, and complex legal & operational responsibilities which carry harsh judicial penalties for the briefest mistake or misfortune. (Ask Mersey Rail Guard Christopher McGee)

The Tory Mayor of London needs to check the history books before decrying ASLEF members. It was a Conservative administration that privatised the railways against the will of the people.  

One of the basic tenets of privatising ANYTHING is that you instantly attach a monetary value to each component part, and railways are no different.

Because it takes so long to train a Train Driver, our expertise and Labour attract a premium that reflects our pivotal operational position, and the capital investment needed to fund our training.

Whilst Tube Drivers operate slightly differently to us mainline Drivers, we share many skill sets. Tube Drivers shoulder similar responsibilities, work the same demanding shift cycles, and attract a similar financial premium due to their geographic location, and the constant need of LUL to pay a wage preventing their Tube Drivers from retraining with a mainline operator for higher wages. 

This is the free market. The same blood lusting right wingers have no problem with bankers pay, but find it distasteful that a 'lowly' Tube Driver earns a viable living wage. When all is said and done, Boris and his chums at the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard need to get real.  

Instead of wasting energy trying to turn lower paid workers against the Tube Drivers by railing against their pay packets, Boris & co need to concede that it was their failed ideology of Thatcherite free market dogma that handed ASLEF & RMT the industrial power they now use so effectively. 

Would a cleaner earning minimum wage find it distasteful to learn of how much a Tube Driver earns? Undoubtedly.

Does that make it wrong for Tube Drivers to use the same free market system that's made many a Tory MP rich, to improve their lot and force LUL to negotiate with them respectfully and seriously? Not at all.  

Observers need to exercise caution; Boris, Cameron, and their 'hack' friends will continue to try and position themselves as being on the side of 'ordinary people' in the fight against 'vested interests'.

Despite their best efforts to convince the public otherwise, this is not the real story.  

The real story is desire to have their cake and eat it, as well as their complicity in haokin mercilessly at the working rights of dedicated working people who have not been fortunate enough to be members of a strong union, or to have inadvertently benefitted from what was the most glaring, disingenuous, dogmatic and economicalIy illiterate policy that the Tories have forced upon us in generations.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Westminster Elite are taking the North-South Price Gap to extremes..

£66,000. That is the shameful amount allocated by central government to Hull City Council for the purpose of helping the city's growing legion of homeless for the next year.

Of course, the government will wring their hands, and purse their
lips, but in reality, they will only ever pay lip service to the underclass who are so despised by those occupying the seats of power.

Many of you will be shrugging at this, but  allow me to put this funding allocation into perspective.

* City of York were allocated almost TEN TIMES the amount that Hull received.

* The major hostel in Hull that co-ordinates services for the homeless, William Booth House, estimates that it would exhaust the grant for the ENTIRE YEAR in only SIX WEEKS!

* The grocery allowance paid to an MP is currently £160 PER WEEK!

(My wife and l have a toddler, a perpetually hungry dog, and a 2nd child marinating nicely, and l am struggling to understand quite how someone reasonably spends £160 on a weekly shop, nevermind the justification for such state-sponsored excess!)

The amount of money that this government thinks is adequate to manage the complex, and long term issues affecting Hulls' homeless for the entirity of 2013 would not even pay for the grocery bills of our millionaire Parliamentarians for ONE WEEK!

(I know that there are price differentials between Westminster and West Hull, but surely even the most privilege-soaked, public school 'Reuben' wouldn't think that the north is that cheap??)

Not only is this a sad endightment of the current political system, whereby those not within the gaze at Drewery Lane Threadneedle Street and Pimlico simply do not matter, it is also indicative of the Yawning chasm that continues to exist between those who legislate over our lives from as positions of profound and embedded influence, as well as pointing to a tendency for those in government to forgot about those of us living and struggling on the north banks of the Humber.

With specific regard to the issue at hand, this government, along with it's predecessors, need to get real about both the scale of the homeless issue within society, and about the effect that THEIR policies are having.

The regions are suffering. People are losing jobs, homes, and families as a result of this zealous, toxic austerity.

Hull is one of the worst victims of Tory ineptitude.

The number of people sleeping rough on the street wiIl only multiply as yet more government cuts start to bite.

What the government are doing is slapping Hull in the face twice.

Firstly by condemning not only us, but also our youth to a future stripped of hope and fair wages, dooming many businesses and causing honest, decent people into homelessness, and secondly by tying the hands of those tasked with clearing up the mess that such senseless economic apartheid causes.

Thatcher began the process of taking from us our industry.

Cameron is now finishing the job by stripping from our children their aspiration, and from the homeless, desperate and vulnerable, any flicker of light that may at one time , have given even brief illumination in the depths of a very dark and very long tunnel.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

David Cameron: Has he embraced hypocrisy, or FINALLY Seen the error of his flagship policy?

So, last night, David Cameron gave the Tory's very own bloodhound gang, (the crusty and archaic 1922 Committee to us mere mortals) the Christmas present they have been praying for for years, when he promised, amongst other things, to fight the 2015 General Election on a 'Eurosceptic Platform'

By all accounts, Cameron's latest episode of opportunism has been hungrily accepted by the committee's patrons, and I'm sure that the Daily Mail reading minions of leafy true blue counties,not to mention Lord Ashcroft et al, will do box steps of sheer delight at Cameron finally admitting what we already know;

① David Cameron is an ideological chameleon - He wilI adopt whatever colour or appearance necessary to facilitate survival (NB: Do not confuse this with a loyalty to the party cause)

② Despite his best efforts, Cameron cannot escape the simple fact that his party can no more survive on a diet of progressive engagement with the EU, our largest trading partners and the largest trading bloc on the planet, than the left of the Labour party could on a diet ot devotion to the teachings of Thatcher.

Apart from witnessing Cameron shoving his increasingly desperate and angry party further to the right, we also learned that Cameron is to appoint paid campaigners in the 40 marginal seats that the Tories must win if they are to achieve a parliamentary majority.

For the record, most of those seats are currently held by Liberal Democrat MPs!

(Long live the spirit of the coalition, eh?)

What particularly resonates with me on this specific issue is the irony of the Tory policy here.

Cameron assumed office on the back of his  much maligned, and frankly ridiculous 'Big Society' campaign, funded for the most part by multi-millionaire Lord Ashcroft incidentally, where many vital roles in Social & Community Care were forced upon the voluntary sector, as funding for the public sector was foolishly hacked to the bone.

Yet now, we see the party opting to PAY those tasked with taking the Tory message into the very communities at which they swing their ideological axe!

(Another campaign no doubt funded by Lord Ashcroft)

Surely, if is good enough for the homeless to be cared for, the elderly fed and the streets policed by those giving their time for free, it is good enough for those hand delivering the propaganda of a feckless government to do so voluntarily?

Is Cameron and his government of privilege sending the message to us plebs that volunteers are not enough to guarantee success?

Is it now Conservative policy that only those motivated by a wage can get results?

Or is it the more likely case, that the Big Society is still the Tories favourite policy pantomime?

At the expense of appearing to prejudge Tory perspective on this, l personally plump firmIy for the latter, along with an expectation that whichever policy is foisted upon us, it won't apply to the likes of Lord Ashcroft, or his fellow Tory bankrollers....

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Write to YOUR local Councillors, MPs & MEPs; Firms who blacklist workers should NOT receive Public Contracts!

Recently, evidence came to light that the biggest construction companies were blacklisting union activists to stop them working in the industry by financially subsidising the shady 'Consulting Association' which maintained illegal records of union officials, activists, and others, and which was run by Ian Kerr.

Rather than stamp on these practices, like any fair minded leader should, David Cameron has instead refused to launch an inquiry into the practices of Kerr and the Consulting Association, the activities of which have ruined careers, lives, families, and driven victims to suicide.

I can only speculate as to which of Davis Cameron's personal beliefs about working people has motivated him to turn a blind eye to the repeated and severe breaching of the human rights of working people..either way, those who represent us, at both local and parliamentary level need to be made aware that their electors demand action

It surely cannot be right that these companies (listed below) should be allowed to benefit commercially from undertaking public work, whilst they deny the rights of working people?

Here is the letter I have sent to my ward councillors on Hull Ciy Council with regard to union blacklisting. I did it via http:www.Write ToThem.com/

It took only a few minutes. Please copy and paste the letter, update the details to reflect your locality, and CLICK ON THE ABOVE LINK to send it to your Councillors, MPs and MEPs too!

FOR THE ATTENTION OF:

•Cllr Sheila Waudby

•Cllr Rosemary Pantelakis

•Cllr Sean Chaytor

Marfleet Ward

FAO; Cllrs Rosemary Pantelakis, Sheila Waudby, and Sean Chaytor.

I am contacting you regarding the issue of union blacklisting that has been going on within the construction industry.

The recent report by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) has recently identified the existence of a 'blacklist' of workers which was routinely accessed by at least 44 construction companies, in a bid to prevent union activists, and those concerned about Health & Safety at Work from finding paid employment.

This has resulted in many honest, hard working union members being denied the ability to provide for their children and families, and has caused them in some cases to lose homes, relationships, careers, and in some extreme instances, be driven to suicide.

The OIC press release included a list of over 40 construction companies who were current or previous users of TCA. These sre listed below;

- AMEC (Amec Building Ltd,

- Amec Construction Ltd,

- Amec Facilities Ltd, Amec Ind Div, Amec Process & Energy - Ltd),

- Amey Construction – Ex Member,

- B Sunley & Sons – Ex Member,

- Balfour Beatty,

- Balfour Kilpatrick,

- Ballast (Wiltshire) PLC – Ex Member,

- BAM Construction (HBC Construction), BAM Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd),

- C B & I,,/p>

- Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd,

- Costain UK Ltd

- Crown House Technologies (Carillion/Tarmac Const),

- Dudley Bower & Co Ltd – Ex Member,

- Emcor (Drake & Scull) - ‘Ex Ref’, Emcor Rail,

- G Wimpey Ltd – Ex Member,

- Haden Young,

- Kier Ltd,

- John Mowlem Ltd - Ex Member,

- Laing O'Rourke (Laing Ltd),

- Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd – Ex Member,

- Miller Construction Limited – Ex Member,

- Morgan Ashurst, Morgan Est

- Morrison Construction Group - Ex Member,

- N G Bailey,

- Shepherd Engineering Services,

- Siac Building Services,

- Sir Robert McAlpine,

- Skanska (Kaverna/Trafalgar House Plc),

- SPIE (Matthew Hall) - Ex Member,

- Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd – Ex Member,

- Turriff Construction Ltd – Ex Member,

- Tysons Contractors – Ex Member,

- Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd - Ex Member,

- Whessoe Oil & Gas Willmott Dixon – Ex Member,

- Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)

I believe that the callous, and illegal disregard shown by these companies for the human and working rights of ordinary people (the kind of which make up the vast majority of the electorate who voted you into office) render these companies, and their subsidiaries unworthy of benefiting from council contracts.

The coalition government have dismissed out of hand, any suggestion that this shameful proactice should be subject to official inquiry. A perspective of worker's rights, which is depressingly predictable, I'm sure you'll agree.

As a Labour party member, I cherish dearly, the right to protect myself from unsafe work practices, and to enjoy freely, the protection of a democratic trade union.

As Labour councillors, I assume that you share my firm beliefs around the importance of protecting the rights of working people, and the ability of all to access safe, fairly paid employment, regardless of their allegiance to any union, or political ideology.

I therefore ask that you make representations within the council chamber with a view to the elected members of Hull City Council resolving to bar these companies from tendering for any and all contracts put out by Hull City Council.

I am not a construction worker myself, but I recognise in this issue, the human cost of such brazenly 'anti-union' activities, and I would respectfully assert, that the commercial organisations a council or other public body does business with, says alot about the morals and the views of those elected members who represent us within it.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to receiving your reply with regard to this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Karl Davis

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Trade Unions, ASLEF & The Globalised Workplace

(This article is from the archive, and was originally published by The ASLEF Journal) ASLEF has a long and proud tradition of working in support of sister unions across the globe. To examine, in the briefest of terms, the issues in Colombia for example, there are trade union representatives being executed by government and industry funded militia, in front of colleagues, and in some cases their children, simply for having the bravery and guts to stand up for their industries, their right to fair pay and safe conditions, and their way of life. Whilst detractors are correct in that these tragic events do not influence directly the settlement of pay deals, they do influence our ability to function as a free and democratic trade union within a globalised marketplace. Many household brands are operating, sometimes in partnerships under different names, and via subsidiaries, in countries all over the world where the very worst abuses of trade unionists take place routinely. The workers at subsidiaries of Coca Cola in Mexico, India and elsewhere have suffered numerous attacks and incidents, and they are not alone in suffering from virulently anti-union stances. The Virgin group in the US has aggressively circumvented collective bargaining by derecognising trade unions representing flight crew. Richard Branson actively lobbied employees to vote against union recognition, instead promoting a system whereby employees essentially represent themselves in negotiations over pay and conditions. Poor industrial practices are like hurricanes; they occur far more regularly than the press would have us believe, they strike harshly at unprepared communities, and they travel the globe, bouncing from coast to coast. The stark difference is that, unlike hurricanes, these practices and aggressive managerial strategies do not peter out by natural process. They have to be confronted, their objectives exposed, their practitioners challenged and defeated by good, solid debate, negotiation, and where necessary, industrial action. What many fail to understand is, the old adage really is true; United we stand, Divided we fall. Under the coalition, we should be bracing ourselves for the most sustained and ideological attack on trade unions since Thatcher. The Tories, via the Trade Union Reform Committee, are bankrolling propaganda campaigns via the printed press to discredit and campaign against unions, their aim to remove all entitlement to paid time off for your representatives, and dilute the power of every union to stand up for workers. The public sector, welfare state, education and social care are being recklessly hacked at by zealous government ministers basking in the afterglow of praise from the Murdoch press and their right wing bedfellows. Communities are being destroyed, and the aspirations of generations shredded callously. If ever there was a time for free, viable, robust and democratic trade unions to stand up for the workers, the economy, and lead the Labour party by example in spelling out the true alternatives to blind austerity, it is now. We are at our most free, most viable, most robust and most democratic when we are strong partners in a global movement. On PNB I hear talk of “Who cares about Palestine?” and “ASLEF should concentrate on its own back yard” Yes, it is vital ASLEF safeguards its primary industrial role in defending our grade, but the struggles of the Palestinian people, those within Israel campaigning for lasting peace, the Colombian, Mexican and Indian trade unionists fearing execution are our struggles. They impinge explicitly on our ability to stand up for workers in a globalised commercial world, within that much vaunted back yard of ours. Let us apply the same principle to the dispute between ASLEF and East Midlands Trains. I fully support my EMT colleagues, and their elected representatives in efforts to prevent Stagecoach from plundering the company pension pot for the benefit of the share price. I feel the same solidarity for the Coca Cola workers in Mexico, India, trade unionists in Colombia, and the US flight crews being bullied into sacrificing human rights in the name of conglomerated profit. Most of us work for multi-national bus companies who would de-recognise unions, slash wages and scrap working safeguards in a heartbeat were it not for our strength in industrial power, conviction, and organisation. In the modern age, our back yard stretches as far as our employers’ interests, spanning cultures, oceans and time zones. We cannot afford to look inwards and ignore the struggles and issues of other workers, be they in other industries, or hailing from foreign shores. We all want a strong, vibrant and effective union movement. Our nation needs it. Our movement is fuelled by solidarity. Solidarity does not respect borders or sovereignty. It is the most powerful weapon we have, one we should treasure. The day it starts needing a passport to spread global unity is the day that we have all failed in our duty, a failure we will surely pay dearly for.

monarchy is not the main obstacle to a better tomorrow

(This article is from the archive and was published by the London Progressive Journal) The concept of constitutional monarchy does not sit well with me; it is universally unfair, arbitrary and perpetually exclusive, in that its aim is to consolidate financial, social and religious supremacy over ordinary people by those who have not earned it. Those who rail against the inequity of royalty miss the point. Queen Elizabeth II, and her role as Supreme Governor of the church is not the main priority of the progressive left . Our most pressing targets are the leaders of our political parties. As I think about our political system and the need for seismic change, I cast my eye across the English Channel. Francois Hollande took the French presidency on a tide of promises. He’s made a promising start. He has taken a 30% salary cut, ended the private jet culture of Sarkozy, and has pledged to use scheduled train services to discharge his duties when travelling. The optimism of the French is familiar. After all, didn’t most of us throb with the same optimism in 1997? Monsieur Hollande clearly has an advantage over Tony Blair. He sought election in a nation where it is no insult to be a proud socialist, something which, to an extent, may explain Tony Blair’s revulsion at the politics of the organised left. I can only hope that Hollande learns from the mistakes of New Labour. This weekend presents a plethora of comparisons and diametric differences between us and our Gallic neighbours. The Jubilee has thrust British monarchism under the spotlight. France’s eternal love for secular republicanism aside, their recent presidential election highlighted the stark, passionate, ideological difference between left and right. UK politics has been homogenised by media moguls, multi-national corporations, and millionaire donors. If we are all honest, and step away from the flags of our political tribalism, the main leaders all sound the same. They are products of the same upbringing, the same privilege, the same life experiences. Cameron is a multi-millionaire graduate of Eton who has never experienced the toils of meaningful employment. Milliband is the offspring of university professors whose affluence has insulated him from the ravages of true working struggle. Clegg is a cushioned, wealthy product of private education, whose inevitable destination was a lubricated entry into Eurocracy. To promote true change, you must feel anger, an emotion that our political leaders do not possess. They have not struggled. Injustice has not shared their childhood. They know nothing of the real impact of poverty upon our nation’s poorest children. Their life experience has been sanitised by their upbringing, and the commercialised, Murdoch-friendly agendas of their predecessors. Hollande too, is the product of wealth. However, he exists within a political system whereby left and right passionately advocate massively different agendas for running the country, and solving the deficit. Hollande has seen the arrogance of the French right, the ineptitude of Sarkozy, and the inherent unfairness of his policies. In France, they have clear electoral choices. We can only choose between slightly altered versions of the same dogmatic subservience to financial services, and engrained distrust of organised workers. The Tories will forever be the party of the rich. Labour used to be the natural home of those wanting more equitable ways of running this country of hard working, talented people whose jobs, savings, pensions and aspirations are being dissolved by the caustic advances of this blind coalition. We are the party of workers, and we should be as proud to say that, as Monsieur Hollande is to call himself socialist. It’s time to inspire people to throw off the shackles of homogenised politics by setting out radical, economically robust, progressive policies, advocated by candidates drawn from ordinary industry and the communities Labour is privileged to serve. We need the voting reform that will make parliament representative again, and we need to smash the grip of big business and millionaires in buying policy. The union funding formula needs updating too, in order to make the voice of workers more relevant and unified. I urge my fellow agitators and republican friends to amend their aim. Regarding those who have packed London to celebrate the Jubilee, I say ‘Let them eat cake’. Targets of the political crosshairs should be the elite who have implanted themselves at the top of our democracy. We need reform, and the will for the grassroots to reclaim its voice. We need a true alternative, and we need the Labour party to throw its arms around those who gave it life, rather than hold its nose in disgust. It would be a mistake to use the current media glare of the Jubilee to push for a republic. The country will be best served if the progressive left unite instead behind a campaign against the bigger injustice that is the ‘Camero-Milliarchy’. I can imagine the placards now.

Tom Windsor; The Future of Policing

(This article is from the archive, and was originally published in an abridged form by Liberal Conspiracy) As a Train Driver, I never thought I would be talking about parallels between railways and policing. Of course, both fulfil vital social functions, and without either, the economy would plunge into crisis, but the two sectors are not natural bedfellows. Today though, the government have decided Tom Winsor, professional bureaucrat, corporate lawyer, and self-crafted enemy of the rank and file is the best possible choice for the post of Chief Inspector of Constabulary, despite the fact that, under the guiding force of their own hand, the government are overseeing a period of unparalleled instability, with root and branch reform of police pay and allowances, 20% cuts, and the operational car crash that is the Police & Crime Commissioner, whilst the nearest Windsor has ever come to police service is swinging his corporate axe at the pay packet of the nearest constable. As well as being an astonishing gesture of governmental ignorance to the real concerns of those policing our streets, this is also indicative of the Tory viewpoint of public services as a whole. Of course, Windsor is responsible for the controversial report into Police pay and conditions, whereby he essentially labelled the majority of officers ‘overpaid and underproductive’, attacking the custom of protecting Police from redundancy, choosing to ignore the effects that their vital and dangerous job has on their personal lives and their families. Windsor does have form in the area of favouring labyrinthine road maps of institutionalised bureaucracy at the expense of shaping regulatory framework to serve the human interest. As rail regulator, he presided over one of the most ridiculous systems of penalty and fine attribution, whereby rail operators ended up having to employ more people to deal with arguing over who was responsible for delays to trains than they did to actually oversee the delivery of the service to the passenger! Windsor’s time as rail regulator was a display of inflexibility, undying servitude to the letter of an almost incomprehensible regulatory framework, and a missed opportunity to promote positive change in an industry massively in need of re-focussing towards the customers it serves, rather than the private fortunes it bankrolls. The Windsor report was a display of dogmatic bobby bashing conducted for the benefit of the right wing gutter press and Tory faithful, and was another missed opportunity. Even the most short-sighted veteran of policing couldn’t deny that that the service would benefit from reform, provided that reform is concentrated on necessary areas, in a considered way that works, and that it is implemented in an atmosphere of consensus. The way in which the Windsor report essentially wagged a lecturing finger at our brave Police clearly exposed the government’s thirst for confrontation with the Police Federation. Legislation prevents the police from taking industrial action. The vast majority of officers readily embraced this restriction as a condition of serving their communities. In return, it has been long since been the case that, as warranted servants of the crown, serving Police Officers cannot be made redundant. On balance, it seems a fair enough trade off to me. However, if the government follow through with the Windsor report, and make it possible to lay off Police Officers, will our police be afforded the right to strike in return for giving up their protection from redundancy? The inflammatory approach of government to the Police is an extension of their disdain for organised labour across the public sector. Thatcher had the acumen to identify the benefits of garnering the support of rank and file officers during her time in office by ensuring that pay, conditions and equipment were improved markedly. Theresa May and David Cameron are once again showing that, whilst they share Thatcher’s hatred for ordinary working people, they can only dream of having the ability to transform that hatred into the kind of dogmatic policies that still stain our communities to this day. Appointing Windsor will not give independence to governmental scrutiny of police operations. After all, Windsor has already shown contempt for serving officers in his report. It will equip the government with a statistical baton with which to attack the Police Federation, and Chief Constables who oppose this lunacy on the grounds of principle. Unions and the public have a duty to support disgruntled Police Officers on this. Whilst there is nothing wrong per se in utilising the innovative ideas of outsiders to improve any service or industry, those changes must be implemented democratically. After all, if we do not object when the government ignore the principles of consent and cooperation when fundamentally changing the working lives of our police, how can we then protest if those rank and file officers police us without the obligation that comes with applying those same values to their everyday work?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Fatalities; A Brief Message from a Train Driver - Ten Years On..

Its really difficult to believe that it has been a full decade to the day since I had my fatality.

As I have stated elsewhere, and to great discussion and scrutiny, it is one of the most graphic, humbling, and traumatic experiences that anyone can go through, to be thrust unwittingly into the final act of a distorted and desperate mind so intent on self destruction.

I don't intend to dwell too long on the particulars of that incident of ten years ago today. The person who stepped in front of my train had their own reasons, motivations, pain and legacy. She left children, a husband, family and friends to deal with the fall out of her final decision. She left an indelible mark upon the lives of perfect strangers. She achieved a bizarre fame really, in that I will carry her with me through the remainder of my time on this earth.

My experience changed me. In some ways for the better. In some ways perhaps not so.

Either way, it shapes part of who I am, and it colours my perceptions and decisions.

One of the few positives to come from the ordeal is that it reaffirms my inner strength, and my conviction in my own ability to manage crisis and navigate through dark and demanding times.

It posed for me a test, and I can take solace in knowing that I passed that test.

Moving on from all of that though, the overridng message has to be aimed at those who see nothing but darkness.

If you feel as though you have nowhere to turn, nobody to talk to, no ear to share your pain with who can possibly hope to understand, you are wrong.

We all have choices. We all have options. We all have decisions to make.

If you are so desperate, that you feel like ending it all, please please PLEASE stop, reflect, and talk to somebody!!

It is not right or fair that you impose your suffering on those who unwittingly will have no choice other than to bear the weight of your suicide;

* The Train/Bus/Tube Driver

* The Emergency Services

* Unwitting Members of the Public who may witness your death

* Your Husband/Wife/Partner

* Your Children

* Your Parents

* Your Friends/Colleagues

When you think there is no way out, focus on the damage you would do to those in the list above, as well as others not included.

For every person above who may be permanently affected by a suicide, there is somebody ready and willing to help you, to talk, to listen, and to support you...

There really IS a choice!!

Spare yourself, and others the rawness of such a final humiliation...talk to someone...any option is better than horrifically ending it all under the wheels of my train....

Please..

Friday, 27 April 2012

A Green Fuuture for #Hull, Embracing #Renewables & Elected Mayors

(Originally published via Hull Republic) http://hullrepublic.tumblr.com/ Where once mighty ocean going vessels jostled for position alongside St Andrews dock, there’s now only rubble, rusting trolleys and the buried remnants of another world, where fishing was king, and where Hull truly did leave others in its wake. Over time, more of our industries have choked and expired, with the city now struggling under the weight of generations who have been without work for far too long, children born into benefit dependency, with all the healthcare issues and legacy of poor education that goes hand in hand with an end to aspiration. We live in the regenerative shadows of Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool. We are continually disregarded, with the exception of St Stephens, as our infrastructure crumbles. Our city has two overriding problems; firstly, we have for years lacked any form of visionary political leadership. People are disenchanted with politics. They do not see how it can bring the change they want, because they see how their views are ignored by the political class. Secondly, the legacy of Thatcher and New Labour has resulted in our industries fading away and dying, leaving generations of working people with no job, and legions of youngsters with no hope. Both problems are interconnected, and both need to be tackled simultaneously, if we are to provide our young with the chance to experience achievement, political engagement, and self-worth. What we need to do is to reinvigorate our local government by increasing democratic accountability. Whilst the majority of Councillors are good people working for the community, there are inevitably some who rely on antipathy to remain in office. The city electorate as a whole has no control over who is leader of the council. This demotivating factor goes a long way to making people feel powerless to bring about change via the ballot box. One way to counter this is through a Directly Elected Mayor. I believe that this would increase participation in elections and provide a unified and cohesive, accountable vision and strategy for the city. It would give voters the power to bring real change. If the mayor isn’t up to the job, he or she can be voted out. It gives people a reason to take ownership of local governance, as well as challenging the parties and candidates to formulate radical and robust strategies for the city’s future, bringing to and end the stagnation from which we have all suffered. Hull desperately needs to attract fresh opportunity through new technologies. The ‘green’ sector is flourishing, and our city is the perfect new home for such industry. We need strong, vocal political leadership in order to raise our voice above the clamour of hopeful locations vying for the revenues and jobs these industries create. The best way to do this is to market Hull as a ‘blank canvass’. We have legions of people, desperate to learn, desperate to earn, desperate to escape benefit dependency and to respect themselves once more. We have large swathes of disused land, ripe for modernisation, the foundations of great infrastructure, with maritime links, and what could be an excellent rail link to the nation and road network leading to the Humber Bridge and beyond if we could harness the political will to implement a strong, united claim for investment. The battle to bring vital new business in the form of environmentally friendly technology will be all the harder when led by an outdated and increasingly irrelevant council system which survives on the antipathy of disillusioned and bereft voters. We need a strong, passionate and visionary voice for Hull. We need someone to lead us in our struggle for a new legacy for our young, and our disenfranchised working classes. We need someone upon whom we can all exercise the ultimate sanction if they fail to live up to our expectations. The city’s electorate needs to be taken on an exciting journey of opportunity, of new industry, of tangible investment in roads and facilities, to a place where there is a chance of a job, and a reason to lift their gaze from the floor. Whitehall has shown time and again that it neither cares for Hull, nor is it willing to part with the cash for investment we need. The city must therefore, be its own cheerleader, architect, and navigator on a journey to the future we all want and deserve. That can only be achieved through direct accountability, and the scrutiny of a motivated electorate. The first step on that exciting journey must start with embracing a new age. To cherish our past is essential, but we must throw open our doors to these exciting new technologies, as well as our minds to the possibility that an elected mayor just might give us a say on where our great city is heading after all. Thanks for reading. Karl Davis for HullRePublic. HullRePublic would like to thank Karl for his thought-provoking post and look forward to working with him again in the future. So what do you think? Should Hull have elected Mayors? Leave us a comment. Get in touch. Share. Make the Change. Karl Davis is a train driver and trade union activist, having held a number of elected positions within the train driver’s union, ASLEF and the TUC. Karl lives in Hull, East Yorkshire, and is married with a young son. A Labour party member and community campaigner, Karl is a member of Labour’s Future Candidate’s Programme, and has played pivotal roles in numerous local campaigns on the issues of housing, corporate manslaughter, Health & Safety for agency workers, Trawlermen’s issues, and also acted as Secretary to the families of the crew of MV Gaul, a Hull based fishing vessel lost in mysterious circumstances in the Barents Sea in 1974. Karl assisted in organising and co-ordinating the campaign to successfully pressure the government into re-opening the Formal Inquiry into the vessel’s loss. Karl is a keen writer, regularly contributing articles to publications, including Guardian (Comment is Free), The Progressive Journal of London and The ASLEF Journal, amongst others. He has appeared on numerous local BBC News outlets connected with a multitude of issues, and engages in public speaking in support various causes. He is currently collaborating with the Universities of Brighton & Bournemouth respectively, on a new book aimed at mental health professionals treating those affected by suicide. Karl is also busily writing his first novel, and posts on twitter as @karldavis1979. His blog can be found at; www.karl-davis.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Why I was Pleased With Ed Miliband's Moves on Union Funding

(Originally published in The Progressive Journal of London & an abridged version subsequently published on Liberal Conspiracy)

As an increasingly critical and frustrated Labour party member, I found Ed Miliband’s comments about the thorny issue of party funding today quite pleasing. I’m tired of party advocates squirming in front of TV cameras as Tories bully them into condemning every strike ballot, and launch jibes about the fact that the party is largely funded by organised workers.

It is clear for all to see that the Tories couldn’t give damn about radical reform of our political system and overhaul of its culture of dependency. They only care about turning this debate into an opportunity to further bind the hands of free and democratic trade unions.

The Tories want a cap of £50,000 on donations, and they want to include union donations within that proposed rule. If this were to come into force it could quite literally starve the Labour party out of effective operation as a political voice for working people.

The Tories, consumed by panic at the grassroots and backbench levels at the realisation that they are being led by arrogant incompetents know this. They are keenly aware of the rising tide of derision and hatred cast toward them as a result of misguided and ideological swipes at the welfare state and public sector that the vast majority of the electorate rely on daily. To choke off the natural home of that massed, disenchanted voice would prevent the very real possibility of electoral disaster for them, come 2015.

There lies a lot of merit in Miliband’s proposals. Allowing personal party donations of £5000, and a union levy of £3 per member to be donated to Labour, with individuals also able to donate separately upto the specified £5000 limit would maintain the strong and proud links between the unions, and the party they created over a century ago. It would still generate revenue for the party, as well as maintaining its accountability to organised workers.

In addition to this, it would set the unions a challenge of enthusing and motivating their members to join and donate to Labour, thereby forcing them to up their game and increase their engagement with their members, strengthening the link between union and party, increasing membership, consolidating the democratic mandate for real change that people so badly want, as well as channelling the organisational expertise of trade unions into local communities.

Despite being an interesting ideological joust in an increasingly homogenised political theatre, this issue speaks to a wider topic.

With every policy announcement and benefit reform, with every tax reform and fiscal initiative, this government is showing itself to be more and more feckless, bereft of ideas and glued together only by a collective disdain for the poor, the public sector and the organised left.

The current crisis within which we find ourselves was caused by the very people the Tory party was formed to represent, and it is ignorant to the hands of those who do not feed it. To cater for the interests of the wider populous is not an option because it does not earn money, or win the party votes.

The Tories cannot see a way out of this mess that doesn’t involve scapegoating the poor, the public sector and the organised left, because to do so would render it an enemy of its natural bedfellows, hence the government playing footsy with the banking sector and big business.

Labour must start presenting a coherent strategy for dealing with the structural deficit in a calm, ordered way, as well as preserving the dignity and base living standards of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Overall, we must win the argument of whether there truly is an alternative to this car crash of a government by taking the electorate on a journey of policy guided by principle, aspiration and sound economics.

Ending the party strategy of treating the trade unions like an embarrassing uncle, and instead treating them like respected and loved best friends would be a great start. Looking at ways of channelling investment into regional infrastructure, possibly through future rounds of quantitative easing or a National Infrastructure Bank, revitalising local government by the expansion of elected mayors, as well as maximising the spread of candidates from working class backgrounds would further bolster Labour’s journey back to power by consolidating our mandate to fight for those attacked at their most vulnerable by this foolish government of millionaires.


Every journey begins with the first step: Labour’s first step should be to proudly and publically embrace the cherished link between organised Labour and political advocacy, put an end to the automatic condemnation of organised workers exercising their legal and human right to democratically decide to withdraw labour, and to stop flinching at the wagging finger of the increasingly rabid and Dickensian right, and the editors of The Daily Mail and The Sun.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Trouble With Workfare..

(Originally published in the ASLEF Journal)

I have directly asked a number of Tory MP's about the Workfare scheme. Whilst some are admirable in their willingness to debate, they are either evasive, or worryingly vague in the answers they give about the detail. Regardless of the merits of individual MPs in their defence of it, the coalition’s response to growing criticism of workfare has been soaked in fear, mistruth, and predictable disdain for organised workers.

For anyone reading this who thinks workfare is a good thing, let's just stop and examine what we can only assume to be happening given the government's unwillingness to properly engage in debate. Benefit claimants are being sent to work for a defined period of time to gain work experience. As ministers are too busy side stepping legitimate questions, we can only surmise that this is to fill a position that is vacant within that organisation.

The important point here is that there is a job available.

At the end of the programme, the company are under no obligation to offer work, regardless of suitability or performance. They are, therefore, perfectly at liberty to ask for another participant under the scheme and repeat the cycle.

Without descending into levelling unqualified charges at companies, it is easy to see the attraction of installing a 'workfare merry-go-round' where once there was an HR department who actually give people real jobs for a real wage.

That understandable capitalist strategy aside, whilst the Tories have dined on the right wing media's thirst for hardline welfare reform, they seriously miss the point. If these companies are allowing benefit claimants to develop experience by shadowing staff, and are not filling empty jobs with workfare participants, that is one thing, and could prove enormously positive if monitored and managed in the right way. If these companies are using benefit claimants to staff their stores and factories, they are frustrating and stifling an already choked jobs market. Undoubtedly some participants will find jobs at the end, but that is not sufficient evidence to counter the argument.

Had it not been for workfare, these jobs would have been advertised through job centres and websites. People would have applied, been interviewed and selected. They'd have done the job and received the wage, moved away from benefits, and contributed to the economy.

I fail to see how workfare improves this process.

Admittedly, this scheme, touted as a 'route to hope from despair' amid other hyperbolic terms, is supposedly aimed at those with no work experience. But even if this scheme does introduce inexperienced job seekers into work, it is doing so at the expense of others who are claiming JSA and looking for a job. All this scheme does is take the stick with which job seekers and benefit claimants have been whacked , and replace it with a double edged sword.

If there are jobs to filled, let them be advertised. Let benefit claimants apply for them. Let the successful candidates earn a fair wage for their labour. Why allow rich, multi-national companies to nurture their considerable profits on the back of unpaid labour provided by a clueless government? The very people who would apply for these jobs are the same ones who the government target by insinuating laziness and lack of work ethic.

All workfare does is provide a cycle of unpaid labour for the country's most profitable organisations whilst preventing the scheme's participants from permanently accessing the same vacancy they're forced to occupy on a temporary basis, and receiving the commensurate wage. At best it shoe-horns an inexperienced person into a role that could be taken by another benefit claimant who does have experience. It generates good headline for the Tories within their press and media buddies, panders to the doctrine of divide and rule perpetrated by big business and government, and needlessly diverts jobs away from one part of the job market to another.

Far from being a fresh initiative that increases the access to jobs for the unemployed, it is actually the equivalent of standing in time of almost biblical drought, trying to turn public opinion against competing components of the water cycle, rather than cutting the rhetoric, listening to the voice of reason, and cracking on with digging a well.

People on benefits are struggling in a suffocated jobs market. They don't need the finger of foolish millionaires wagged needlessly at them.

What people on benefits need is responsible government that helps them to find work by guiding the economy to growth, rather than chopping at its bones. They need job centres that channel them toward REAL jobs rather than unpaid labour, and they need welfare reform targeted at improving quality of life for the poorest and most vulnerable, not just the Tory party approval rating in the eyes of the Murdoch press.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Full Text Of My Complaint To The BBC - Re; Failure Of BBC To Adequately Cover NHS March.

Complaint Summary: Lack of coverage of Save our NHS March by BBC News

I feel compelled to complain about the almost total lack of coverage of the Save Our NHS March today. Today we had legions of concerned and outraged marching through the capital in defence of our health service, a crowd that included women, children and the infirm.

The police, with the approval of government, responded to this lawful protest by posting Police Officers armed with machine guns on the streets! Yet this is not reported by the BBC!

To say I'm disgusted by your seeming indifference to this would be an epic understatement. I expect variable levels of integrity from commercial news outlets, but the BBC has a responsibility to lead by example and make sure that disturbing and reprehensible acts of operational excess such as this are reported. I feel this is an aspect of a wider agenda that seems to be infiltrating the BBC News and current affairs programming, whereby news which is contrary to the government view is barely examined and vastly under reported, and advocates of left wing opinion seem maligned as a matter of course.

Even Question Time is seemingly stacked against government opposition, with left wing commentators other than senior Labour ministers apparently considered unsuitable panellists.

Your news programmes are fast losing their air of impartiality thanks to your ongoing refusal to report on anti-government protest and opinion, and Question Time is fast losing its appeal and its relevance because it relies on coalition bias and a pool of panellists that is fast becoming predictable and too small, both in terms of numbers and opinion.

As a passionate advocate of the values of the BBC, and public sector broadcasting, I urge you to correct these worrying regressions as a matter of urgency.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Why Labour Needs To Keep Faith In Ed..and Why We Need a Coalition Of Our Own..

This article was originally published in The London Progressive Journal on
January 1st, 2012.

As a Labour Party member, looking back over 2011 should be a positive experience. The coalition have been allowed time to disprove what was suspected of their motives, and yet again, these motives have been proven as bulwarks of governmental policy issued from behind the political fig leaf that is the Liberal Democrats. At the same time, Ed Miliband has been given time to establish himself as the voice of an alternative vision for the building of a better future for Britain.

It is certainly true to say that the politic of opposition is far easier than the duty of government, yet Miliband’s personal ratings have yet to reach levels expected of somebody taking the fight to an unpopular government busying itself with the bloody business of ripping the heart out of the regional economies, the welfare state, and the dying embers of British manufacturing.

Numerous commentators, in addition to many within the party, make disparaging comments about Ed Miliband, rubbing their hands in anticipation of the ‘inevitable’ power struggle that will surely follow as we all turn in on ourselves, ripping Ed from office and tearing a hole in the party, as ambitious hands clamour to grasp the chalice of leadership.

Such views are misguided, and will only condemn us to a generation on the sidelines as we watch the Tories wreck the country once more.

Whilst Ed certainly isn’t as naturally engaging with television cameras and mass media as Blair, Cameron or Clegg, he has proven himself to be of immaculate political breeding, as well as being a brilliantly shrewd political mind. He is a facilitator, organiser, and a strategist, qualities vital for anyone intending to lead our nation and our economy away from blind cuts, and toward growth and jobs.

I concede the point that Ed needs to raise his profile, and those advising him need to work on the image he projects. As someone who will be knocking on doors come election time however, I would advise Mr Miliband to pay as much attention to the team he assembles around him over the coming months.

Those reaching nervously for the ejector button should hesitate. Looking back to the heady days post-1997, it would be easy to compare Ed’s early ratings, and the abject failure of William Hague to press home his message during his ill-fated time as Tory Leader. The striking difference of course is that the government of the day were investing in public services rather than starving them of funds, and the nation at large was on a high following the promise of a new start.

Differences aside however, I would point my party colleagues in the direction of history when cautioning against Machiavellian manoeuvring.

Looking back at the recent history of the Conservatives, the ousting of Hague, Duncan-Smith and Howard prove my point in that the Tories were as a result, rudderless, disorganised, introspective and unelectable.

We face a fixed term parliament promising nothing except continued attacks on unions and the public sector, cuts, misery, mass unemployment, and a depressing cocktail of poverty and benefit dependency which will last generations. We have a coalition government, glued together by the political ambition of Nick Clegg and a small clique of Lib Dems whose betrayal of principles and supporters alike unlocked the door to a ministerial pension pay day, and access to the government car pool, together with a newly hawkish Tory party who are shameless in their hatred for the sweeping majority of the people they govern.

It would be a mistake for Labour to allow the remainder of the parliament to become too presidential in terms of the comparison between government and opposition. Cameron has referred to himself smugly as “The heir to Blair” and it is clear that he has funnelled a great deal of Tory donations into massaging his image.

Labour should realise that there is strength through unity, and wealth through depth. Miliband needs to carefully examine his shadow cabinet with a mind to blazing new trails, building new bridges, and showing the electorate that the government is just plain wrong.

Labour’s campaign should not solely be about Ed Miliband. It should be about the collective might that is the best that Labour can offer to the electorate. I believe that Ed can assemble, plan and direct such a team.

To focus the battle on Ed versus Dave would be a grave mistake. Labour needs to show that we have the wealth of numbers, strength through unity, and courage of our convictions in sharing the burden of spearheading the fight across that shadow cabinet.

Cameron and Clegg have already assembled a ‘Coalition of the Willing’
For Labour to return to office, and right the wrongs of this administration, Ed Miliband needs to assemble a coalition of the ready and able.