Tag: Beecroft Report

Why I strongly support Trade Unionism

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Trade Unions are fundamental to a functional democracy. Research shows that Trade Unionism is linked with higher levels of social equality and better public services, as well as better working conditions and rates of pay that ensure people have a decent standard of living. The Conservatives have always hated Trade Unions because Tory governments tend to value, perpetuate and endorse inequality and poor pay. We currently have the highest levels of social inequality in the EU, and it’s even greater than in the USA. We also have the biggest wage drop, pay hasn’t fallen this much since the 1800s. Tories like cheap labor, and profit for big business

That isn’t in ordinary people’s best interests. The largest study of UK deprivation shows that full-time work is no longer a safeguard against poverty. Yet Conservatives claim to be the party for “hard-working people.”

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In a democratic society, governments don’t attempt to oppress opposition by using partisan policies to restrict their funding in order to turn a first world nation into a one party state. This government has established quite an impressive track record of punishing its critics to silence them. The proposed abolition of the Lords’ right to vote on or veto secondary legislation, delivered by the Strathclyde Review, but written in the rancorous and authoritarian hand of David Cameron, is another measure of draconian decision-making to stifle dissent, a tactic commonly deployed, it seems, when the Conservatives are faced with challenges and the prospect of not getting their own way, regardless of how unpopular and unreasonable their own way is.

Cameron’s rancour arose following the defeat in the House of Lords of a sneaky legslation in the form of a Statutory Instument that would have removed in work support for workers on low pay – tax credits. The defeat and ensuing publicity of the Lords debate and the exposure of an underhand legislative move forced the government to back down. But the shadow secretary for Work and Pensions, Owen Smith, has pointed out that cuts to benefit in-work entitlements being introduced through Universal Credit mean that the controversial tax credit reductions have been simply been “rebranded” by the government rather than reversed.

Secondary legislation is unamendable and is allocated 90 minutes debate in the Commons at best, by the Conservatives. Secondary legislation in the form of Statutory Instruments was only ever intended for non-controversial and small tidying up legislative measures. A Tory aide admitted that the Government are trying to get as much unpopular legislation in through the secondary route as possible. But this has been very evident anyway. The government is intent on dismantling any inconvenient piece of the constitution.

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Then there are the electoral reforms and proposed constituency boundary changes which are aimed at decreasing opposition votes and increasing Conservative seats. These are all examples of a very worrying authoritarian approach that the Conservatives have adopted to stifle challenges and concerns regarding the ideological basis and the impact of their policies without any democratic dialogue whatsoever.

Trade union funding is the cleanest money in politics: it comes from you and me, and therefore will ensure our interests are reflected in policy-making, rather than just those of big business tax-avoiding Tory donors.

It’s very worrying that vulture capitalists like Adrian Beecroft, a longstanding Conservative donor, has been permitted to re-write our employment laws as part of the government’s wider “labor market “reform.” Amongst Beecroft’s known personal investments are Gnodal, a computer networking company, and Wonga.com, an eye-wateringly high interest, opportunist loan company, that commodifies the poorest people with low credit ratings for massive profits. Beecroft has donated more than £500,000 to the Conservative Party since 2006.

The Beecroft Report caused considerable controversy because it recommended that the government should cut “red tape” in order to make the hiring and firing of employees much easier. In the report, Beecroft claimed this would help to “boost the economy” although no evidence for this was provided. It was alleged that significant sections of the report had been doctored. It was also reported that some recommendations had been removed from the original draft of the report.

The (then) Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, condemned the report, saying it was unnecessary for the government to scare workers. Beecroft responded by accusing Cable of being “a socialist who does little to help business” and cited his own personal experience of “having to pay out” £150,000 for unfairly dismissing an HR employee as one of the reasons he included the idea in the report. In an excellent article, James Moore, writing for the Independent, said that the Beecroft report contained “the seeds of the ruthless social Darwinism” and he connected the recommendation to Beecroft’s career of cutting jobs, and highlighted Beecroft’s long history of “wholesale attacks on workers’ terms and conditions.”

In a society that puts profit before people; where employees are regarded as a disposable cost and not an asset to employers; where noone but the powerful have rights; where wages are kept to the bare minimum, there can be no economic growth. Instead we are witnessing increasing economic enclosure and widespread exclusion – small pockets of privilege characterised by stagnant, accumulated wealth and increasingly widespread poverty elsewhere. With little public spending to stimulate small business and general growth, there can be no economic security.

All Conservative politics pivot on a fundamental commitment – the defence of privilege, status, and thus sustaining social inequality. But it is only by shifting money from the high-hoarding rich to the high-spending rest of us, and not the other way around, that investment and growth may be stimulated and sustainable.

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Despite their recent rhetoric, the Conservatives are not and never have been the “party for workers.” New measures under Universal Credit will make benefit payments to people who are in work, but on low earnings, conditional on them taking “certain steps” to increase their pay or hours.

Many people in work are still living in poverty and reliant on in-work benefits, which undermines the libertarian paternalist/Conservative case for increasing benefit conditionality somewhat, although those in low-paid work are still likely to be less poor than those reliant on out-of-work benefits. The Conservative “making work pay” slogan is a cryptographic reference to the punitive paternalist 1834 Poor Law principle of less eligibility.

The government’s Universal Credit legislation has enshrined the principle that working people in receipt of in-work benefits may face benefits sanctions if they are deemed not to be trying hard enough to find higher-paid work. It’s not as if the Conservatives have ever valued legitimate collective wage bargaining.

In fact their legislative track record consistently demonstrates that they hate it, prioritising the authority of the state above all else. There are profoundly conflicting differences in the interests of employers and employees. The former are generally strongly motivated to purposely keep wages as low as possible so they can generate profit and pay dividends to shareholders and the latter need their pay and working conditions to be such that they have a reasonable standard of living.

Workplace disagreements about wages and conditions are now typically resolved neither by collective bargaining nor litigation but are left to management prerogative. This is because Conservative aspirations are clear. They want cheap labor and low cost workers, unable to withdraw their labor, unprotected by either trade unions or employment rights and threatened with destitution via benefit sanction cuts if they refuse to accept low paid, low standard work. Similarly, desperation and the “deterrent” effect of the 1834 Poor Law amendment served to drive down wages.

In the Conservative’s view, Trade Unions distort the free labor market which runs counter to New Right and neoliberal dogma. Since 2010, the decline in UK wage levels has been amongst the very worst in Europe. That isn’t a coincidence. It’s an intended consequence of Conservative policy.

The Conservatives talk a lot about the need for citizen responsibility, but seem to have exempted themselves. They also seem to have forgotten that responsibities are generally balanced with citizen rights. The right to withdraw labour as a last resort in industrial disputes is fundamental to free societies, as the European Convention on Human Rights recognises.

Not that this government concerns itself with international human rights laws. We are currently the first country to face a UN inquiry into serious disability rights violations. Conservative policies are also in breach of the human rights of children and women. Conservatives operate from within a non-cooperative, competitive individualist, relatively non-altruistic framework . Their anti-humanist, social Darwinist, anti-welfare policies reflect this. 

The government’s proposed changes to Trade Union laws are a major attack on civil liberties. The Conservative’s proposals have been criticised by Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights, amongst others. The three organisations issued this joint statement:

“By placing more legal hurdles in the way of unions organising strike action, the Trade Union Bill will undermine ordinary people’s ability to organise together to protect their jobs, livelihoods and the quality of their working lives.

“It is hard to see the aim of this bill as anything but seeking to undermine the rights of all working people. We owe so many of our employment protections to trade unions and we join them in opposing this bill.”

Trade unionists are at the forefront of the struggle for human rights; they are committed to social justice and international solidarity, and typically have strong community roots. These values make them prime targets of this government’s repression. 

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“I oppose the government’s Trade Union Bill and I will stand up for rights and freedom at work.” Sign the petition here.

Tory dogma and hypocrisy: the “big state”, bureaucracy, austerity and “freedom”

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The Tories are not “paying down the debt” as claimed. They are raising more money for the rich.

Labour’s social and economic policy was a success, and this is substantiated by the LSE’s definitive survey of the Blair-Brown years:

There is clear evidence that public spending worked, contrary to popular belief.” Nor did Labour overspend. It inherited “a large deficit and high public sector debt”, with spending “at a historic low” – 14th out of 15 in the EU.

Labour’s spending increased, and money was invested in public services and social programs, and until the crash was still “unexceptional”, either by historic UK standards or international ones.

Until 2007 “national debt levels were lower than when Labour took office”. After years of neglect during the previous Conservative administration [2 recessions during the Thatcher era, another during Major’s],  Labour inherited a mess: public services in very poor state, shabby and squalid public buildings and unforgivably neglected human lives that formed a social deficit much more costly than any Treasury debt.

Labour Ministers set about addressing the causes and devastating effects of poverty and social marginalisation. Both poverty and inequality had risen to levels unprecedented in post-war history. This process accelerated during the 1980s.

Unlike every other post-war decade, in which the benefits of economic growth had been shared across social groups, the economic gains of the 1980s disproportionately benefited the rich at the expense of the poor (Hills, 2004). Social inequality on such a gross level was not only the result of Thatcher’s policies, she celebrated it. She declared that inequality is essential to fostering “the spirit of envy” and hailed greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

The mess that Thatcher left is verified by several longitudinal studies. Dr. Alex Scott-Samuel and colleagues from the Universities of Durham, West of Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh, sourced data from over 70 existing research papers, which concludes that as a result of unnecessary unemployment, welfare cuts and damaging housing policies, the former prime minister’s legacy

…includes the unnecessary and unjust premature death of many British citizens, together with a substantial and continuing burden of suffering and loss of well-being.

The article also cites evidence including the substantial increase in income inequality under Thatcher – the richest 0.01% of society had 28 times the mean national average income in 1978 but 70 times the average in 1990, and the rise in UK poverty rates from 6.7% in 1975 to 12% in 1985.

It concludes that:

Thatcher’s governments wilfully engineered an economic catastrophe across large parts of Britain” by dismantling traditional industries such as coal and steel in order to undermine the power of working class organisations, such as unions. This ultimately fed through into growing regional disparities in health standards and life expectancy, as well as greatly increased inequalities between the richest and poorest in society.

Blair established the social exclusion unit inside No 10. “Social exclusion” signified not just poverty, but its myriad causes and symptoms, with 18 task forces examining education, babies’ development, debt, addiction, mental health, housing and much more. Policies followed and so did improvements.

John Prescott’s department published an annual Opportunities for All report that monitored these social targets: 48 out of 59 indicators improved. So when Cameron and his band of brigands sneer that “all Labour did was give tax credits to lift families just over the poverty line” – “poverty plus a pound” – they lie through their teeth.

Contrary to Tory claims, benefits were not Labour’s main instrument of social change: the benefit budget fell as a proportion of spending, outstripped by increases in health, education and other social services.

Despite Blair’s neoliberal turn, Labour’s social policies enshrined principles of equality and inclusion. The Tories deplore such principles, yet that doesn’t stop them claiming that their socially regressive policies are somehow “fair”. Things got better with a Labour administration, money was mostly well spent. That’s not the case now. It’s all being intentionally and spitefully undone. We are moving backwards on just about every positive social measure Labour put in place: the coalition’s “more for less” is exposed as pretence. They are simply raising more money for the rich.

And all because of their driving ideology. George Osborne’s “plan A” isn’t about economics: it amounts to little more than a rehashed Thatcherite ideological agenda of deregulation and labour market “flexibility”, as modelled by the Beecroft report – the assault on the rights of employees, and Labour’s historic equality legislation. The Tory demand for a “nightwatchman state” is both ill-conceived and completely irrelevant to Britain’s economic circumstances.

The Coalition have borrowed more in 4 years than labour did in 13 and have NOTHING to show for it except a handful of wealthier millionaires. And the return of absolute poverty.

We know that austerity was intentionally imposed by the Coalition, using a feigned panic over the budget deficit to front an opportunistic vulture capitalist approach to stripping our public assets. With the Coalition in power for 4 years, the deficit has apparently receded in importance.

We can hope that Labour can return to its  pro-social role of advocating government spending for the provision of public services. Conservatives have always played on dogma and popular prejudice by constantly equating government with bureaucracy. But that’s just the superficial excuse for their obsession with removing every trace of supportive provision and our public services.

It’s more accurate to say that Conservatives equate socially responsible, democratic, caring governments with “bureaucracy”. Conservatives aren’t ever interested in championing independent and merit-based public service. But most criticisms of government bureaucracy are based on myth, not reality.

The agencies that the Tories attack and destroy actually play a valuable and indispensable role in making our society a better place to live. They are the very hallmarks of what makes us civilised, they are how we support vulnerable citizens, ensure equal opportunities, uphold human rights.

The whole point of having human rights is that they apply to EVERYONE – something the Tories never understand – if rights are  not universally applied, then they are worthless. In fact they are hostile to the very notion that we each have equal worth, as we know.

Tories value and develop social hierarchy. When Tories want to make “shrinking” government sound attractive and feasible, they claim they are cutting “bureaucracy” and not social “programs.” Most people recognise the public value of State programs – in the areas of education, health and the environment for example – and don’t want to see these reduced; but everyone hates bureaucracy.

Using the term “bureaucracy” in this way is a rhetorical sleight-of-hand that attempts to obscure the real costs of cutting back on government programs. The lack of coherent reasoning underpinning the rhetoric is because this is simply Tory fundamentalism: it is not founded at all on rational, evidenced discourse.

I’ve said elsewhere that Edwardian levels of inequality led to the Great Depression. Austerity measures under Chancellor Hindenburg contributed to the rise of Nazism. The drop in household income in Japan between 1929 and 1931 led to a wave of assassinations of Government officials and bankers.

Social policies after World War 2 turned the tables and brought peace, with inequality steadily dropping in Britain until recently. But inequality is now returning to pre-war levels. The Tories are incapable of learning from historic lessons, because of their own sense of entitlement, privilege and ideological bondage.

In response to the atrocities committed during the War, the International Community sought to define the rights and freedoms necessary to secure the dignity and worth of each individual. Ratified by the United Kingdom, one of the first countries to do so, in 1951, those human rights originally established in the Universal Declaration have been steadily eroded since the Coalition gained Office.

There’s a clear link between high levels of inequality and failure of Governments to recognise human rights, and to implement them in policies. Authoritarians view the rights of the individual, (including those considered to be human rights by the international community), as subject to the needs of the Government. Of course in democracies, Governments are elected to represent and serve the needs of the population.

Democracy is not only about elections. It is also about distributive and social justice. The quality of the democratic process, including transparent and accountable Government and equality before the law, is critical. Façade democracy occurs when liberalisation measures are kept under tight rein by elites who fail to generate political inclusion.

Related articles:

How remarkable that a government that argues against bureaucracy on the grounds that it’s a “threat to individual freedom” have no problems imposing the Gagging Act and the Legal Aid Act – policies purposefully designed to severely limit our freedoms. But then, the Tories were never known for their rationality, coherence and joined-up narratives. Or for integrity and telling the truth.

Thatcher’s secret plot to dismantle the welfare state and privatise the NHS revealed

The mess we inherited: some facts with which to fight the Tory Big Lies

The great debt lie and the structural deficit myth

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Osborne’s real aim is not budget surplus, but attack on Welfare State & public sectors It’s not a difficult task for a government to guarantee a safety-net that is always available for anyone who falls on hard times during an era of huge social and economic change. We all fund it, after all. And we all know that unemployment, injury or illness may happen to anyone through no fault of their own. It’s considered a duty of any first-world government to provide the means of basic survival for its citizens and to fund that with the money we contribute via taxes. In fact such an approach to social and economic welfare is internationally codified in human rights.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the UK is a signatory, reads:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

The Tories prefer to spend the tax they take from you on Tory donors – private companies that don’t deliver a service but simply fleece profit; on undeserving millionaires’ tax breaks – the feckless, scrounging rich had at least £107,000 each per year extra already. Then there is the never ending list of Tory expense scandals – all at our expense. And tax evasion. Why are we paying for this?

Furthermore, why are we indifferent as a society to the fact that our government is causing harm to our fellow citizens? I can’t comprehend this, how can we have allowed this to happen, as a so-called civilised and once democratic society? It’s about a driving ideology that is socially detrimental, malevolent, and not economically necessary: the Tories do not think that people have a right to food, housing or medical care, that much is clear. But they continue to take the money we have paid since the 1940s for those things. And hand it out to the wealthy.

Despite these facts, the Govt and the right-wing media have the audacity to talk about welfare claimants, as if all our woes are their fault. They aren’t, the spiteful authoritarian Tories are the problem.

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We can’t afford this government, economically, socially, morally or psychologically. Osborne’s austerity message was seriously undermined, and his lies in trying to blame the last government were demonstrated last November when the Office for National Statistics found that the coalition had borrowed £430.072 billion since it took over, whereas the last Labour government managed to borrow just £429.975 billion in 13 years. –  George Osborne Says Britain’s ‘Best Days Lie Ahead’, Ignoring These 6 Graphs

 

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant memes