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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