Tag: TUC

Gaslighting Conservative MP says Universal Credit protest is a ‘political stunt’

A Conservative MP, Simon Clarke, has condemned a protest against Universal Credit in Guisborough, dismissing it as a “political stunt”.

Clarke said the protest will ‘disrupt local businesses’ on one of the busiest days in the run up to Christmas.

Local Labour MPs and unions are holding a march in the town on Saturday. They join thousands of other people, accusing the government of a “callous approach”.

They said the so-called flagship reform – which replaces six existing benefits, and has been introduced across Teesside in recent months – was “causing real poverty and hardship in our communities”.

Redcar and Cleveland Council has written to the Government three times to delay the roll-out until after Christmas, saying that claimants’ waiting five weeks for their first payment would leave families penniless over the Christmas period.

However Clarke, whose Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is the only Conservative seat on Teesside, claims he has not had a single constituent flag any problems with the system.

Clarke claims: “At the heart of Universal Credit is the principle that work should always pay and those who need support should receive it.” 

“That is what it delivers – bringing an end to the broken culture we inherited from Labour, where the number of households where nobody had ever worked doubled between 1997 and 2010.”

Clarke continued with his myth making: “I have liaised really closely with the brilliant team at Loftus Job Centre in recent weeks. The team there could not have been clearer: they think Universal Credit will help people, they are well trained to deliver it and they are fed up of being demonised by politicians who only want to frighten their clients unnecessarily.”

However, it is very problematic to accept the narratives of administrators and to completely discount the negative experiences and citizen accounts of those Universal Credit is being imposed on. The system is so riddled with design flaws and process faults that it is practically guaranteed to generate mistakes and delays that would push vulnerable benefit claimants into hardship, according to administrative whistleblowers. 

Service centre workers have told the Guardian that glitches and errors in the “cobbled-together” system have commonly led to peoples’ benefit payments being delayed for weeks or wrongly reduced by hundreds of pounds. Mistakes and delays can add on average an extra three weeks to the formal 35-day wait for an initial benefit payment, pushing claimants into debt, rent arrears, and reliance on food banks.

Campaigners warn that the problems may get worse next year when more than 3 million claimants start to be “migrated” to the new system.

One employee said: “The IT system on which Universal Credit is built is so fundamentally broken and poorly designed that it guarantees severe problems with claims.”

He said the system was “overcomplex and prone to errors that affected payments and often proved slow to correct.”

“In practical terms, it is not working the way it was intended and it is having an actively harmful effect on a huge number of claimants.”

Bayard Tarpley, who left the Grimsby service centre after two years as a telephony agent, told the Guardian that he had been dealing with distressed claimants every day. “My hope is that by speaking out I can help explain why these processes have such a significant, harmful impact on claimants.”

He gave several examples of where poor system design and practice caused delays and payment errors, including:

  • Staff are not notified when claimants leave messages on their online journal; for example, if they wish to challenge payment errors. As a result, messages sent to officials can go unanswered for days or weeks unless claimants pursue the inquiry by phone.
  • Claimants are discouraged by staff from phoning in to resolve problems or to book a home visit and instead are actively persuaded to go online, using a technique called “deflection”, even when callers insist they are unable to access or use the internet.
  • Callers have often been given wrong or contradictory advice about their entitlements by DWP officials. These include telling severely disabled claimants who are moving on to universal credit from existing benefits that they must undergo a new “fit for work” test to receive full payment.
  • Although the system is equipped to receive scanned documents, claimants instead are told to present paper evidence used to verify their claim, such as medical reports, either at the local job centre or through the post, further slowing down the payment process.
  • Small delays or fluctuations in the timing of employers’ reporting of working claimants’ monthly wages via the real time information system can lead to them being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket through no fault of their own.

Food banks are regarded as a formal backstop for when the system fails, he said. Officials are told to advise those claimants who are in hardship and who do not qualify for cash advances to contact charities or their council for help. However, many councils have closed local welfare provision as a result of central government cuts to funding.

These disclosures add to the mounting concerns over Universal Credit, and provides evidence that the system is not supporting people with even their most basic living costs. Universal Credit roll out is six years behind schedule but will eventually handle £63bn of welfare support going to 8 million people.

Campaigners and researchers say their concerns have been met with a “defensive and insular” approach to managing welfare reform by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

The department came under withering fire from a cross-party group of MPs who accused it of a “culture of indifference” after it had repeatedly ignored warnings of basic process errors that led to 70,000 disabled benefit claimants being underpaid an estimated £500m over six years.

The then work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, sought to limit the damage in a speech in which she admitted there were problems with Universal Credit, and promised to listen to campaigners, claimants and frontline staff to find ways to change and improve the system.

If Universal Credit is so ‘helpful’ for citizens, wouldn’t you think that the United Nations would have recognised that this was the case during the recent inquiry? As it is, Philip Alston said that Universal Credit is “entrenching people in poverty” and inflicting “unnecessary misery” on citizens, because of the government’s “radical social re-engineering programe”. 

Alston concluded: “In the fifth richest country in the world, this is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.” 

He also warned that the motivation behind the controversial benefit reform was to slash spending, despite finding little evidence that there had been any savings, and that the message to claimants is, “You are alone” and that state assistance is the “last resort”.

Yet Clarke says: “Since roll-out began here last month, not a single constituent has come forward with a problem for me to help with. My staff have all received training if anyone does. No amount of staff training, however, can ensure that people have enough money to meet their basic living costs within a punitive framework that is purposely designed to create a hostile environment to deter people from claiming social security support. 

“But I think people in Guisborough will rightly be unimpressed that their town is being disrupted on one of the busiest shopping days before Christmas by what is frankly a political stunt,” said Clarke, using what is frankly a deplorable gaslighting technique.

I can’t imagine that many people experiencing problems with their Universal Credit claim would find Clarke particularly approachable. He seems to be surrounded by an impervious wall of denial.

Redcar MP Anna Turley has also called for the roll out of Universal Credit to be stopped until flaws in the system are put right. She said that low income families and vulnerable people would be left reliant on food banks and forced into personal debt.

A similar protest, organised by Unite the Union, was held in Redcar last weekend.

Cllr Sue Jeffrey, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “I am dismayed at the callous approach being taken by this Government.

“We know that there is likely to be difficulties for many people who are forced to move onto Universal Credit in the month before Christmas.”

The TUC said that the Conservatives “are in denial about the hardship Universal Credit will cause in our area”.

Accusing the accuser: Conservative techniques of neutralisation and perception management

However, it’s an intentional, evidence-vaulting sort of deliberated response – a habitualised, patterned, crib sheet, ‘strategic communication’ (communication tactically aligned with the government’s overall strategy and ideological aims, to enhance its strategic positioning) kind of denial:

Another MP who called for an end to “scaremongering” about Universal Credit last year is Wendy Morton. Speaking in a Commons debate about Universal Credit, she said: “It is this government who are helping people, which is why I am disappointed to have sat through a lot of this debate and heard scaremongering stories from Opposition Members.”

She responded with the sloganised, detached and meaningless comment: Universal Credit “makes work pay and helps people into work” and staff at job centres, who administer the benefit, were “working hard to get it right.” 

In October, during a parliamentary debate, St Austell and Newquay’s MP, Steve Double, claimed that jobcentre staff “love it, and claimants like it” and that “one of the problems is all the scaremongering, primarily from the Labour party.”

The evidence from a wide variety of sources, however, strongly suggests otherwise. 

As Labour MP Liz McInnes said at the time: “If these claims are in fact true, who could possibly object to impact assessments being released? They will no doubt reflect the happiness and joy being spread to Universal Credit claimants in beautiful Cornwall. One would think that the Government would be shouting this marvellous news from the rooftops – if it were true.”

Esther McVey memorably refused to agree to meet with the women so bady affected by Universal Credit that they were forced into sex work to avoid destitution. She coldly asked former Labour minister Frank Field, who raised his concerns, to remind them “there are now record job opportunities” in the UK.

During that particular debate, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood called on the government to stop the  roll-out, adding: “There’s a real danger that hundreds of thousands of people could fall out of the social security system altogether and be pushed into poverty and left at risk of destitution.”

McVey dismissed those concerns as “scaremongering”. And again in March, McVey accused Labour of “scaremongering and misinformation”, saying an extra 50,000 children would benefit under the Universal Credit system, when MPs raised concerns of growing childhood poverty.

In March, at a meeting ,the Conservative Mansfield MP and Hucknall councillor Ben Bradley said, ludicrously, that Labour were “weaponising poor people” and “scaremongering rubbish”.

The government are weaponising social security.

And Labour councillor Michael Payne, who represents Arnold North, quoted parts of a disgraceful blog written by Bradley in which he said people on benefits should have vasectomies

There are many on the Opposition Benches who have expressed legitimate concerns about the catastrophic Universal Credit roll out on behalf of their constituents only to have them passed off as “scaremongering.”

However, the government should not ignore the concerns shared by affected citizens, many outside the House, by the charities and organisations at the forefront of supporting people through such difficult and distressing periods when they don’t have the means to meet even their basic living needs, leaving them extremely vulnerable. 

Last week I wrote about Dan Carden’s letter to Amber Rudd, also asking her to postpone the roll out of Universal Credit in his Liverpool Walton constituency. 

He said: “We have families experiencing poverty on an unprecedented scale and now facing further avoidable hardship in the run up to Christmas. 

“I have now been informed that job centres across Liverpool are advancing payments to my constituents to obtain provisional driving licences for the purposes of identification and then deducting the cost from their benefits.

“Constituents are also having to pay for postal orders, passport photographs and postage, just to obtain provisional licences.”

He explained that the DVLA says there is a five-week wait for provisional licences, and highlighted the delays before the first payments are made when someone is transferred on to Universal Credit.

Carden added: “Continuing with this roll-out will leave many of the most vulnerable families in Liverpool Walton destitute by Christmas and I am therefore asking you to intervene as a matter of urgency.”

The secretary of state for work and pensions, responded despicably and oppressively, as follows:

However, it seems Rudd failed to bother checking her own government’s web site for advice and evidence.

When people apply for Universal Credit, they are asked to verify their identity online via the GOV.Verify service. 

To do so, you need either;

  • A valid UK driving license
  • A valid UK passport.

Of course this creates problems for those without the documents. Their Universal Credit claim cannot go ‘live’ without conforming to the ID verification framework. People generally can’t get an advance because their claim isn’t live. Once they’ve received their new ID document, (takes around 6-8 weeks usually), it’s then a further 5 weeks (at least) until their first Universal Credit payment.

According to the government web site, you can only apply for an advance on your first payment if you have already verified your identity.

You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.

You’ll need to:

  • explain why you need an advance
  • verify your identity (you do this online when you submit your Universal Credit claim or at your first Jobcentre Plus interview)
  • provide bank account details for the advance (talk to your work coach if you cannot open an account.)

It seems that the “terrific” job coaches are not applying rules consistently, leading to a post code lottery concerning the verification requirements for claims. 

The Verify framework:

 

The response from Rudd and other ministers has become a deplorable, standardised and authoritarian tactic of repressing legitimate criticism for the Conservatives, however. Other ministers who have habitually used the term ‘scaremonger’ as a gaslighting technique include Sarah Newton and David Gauke among others. 

Traditional Conservative prejudices about poverty: blame the victims

Gordon Henderson the Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey in Kent, has tried to argue that the move to Universal Credit was not responsible for a significant rise in the use of foodbanks.

He said that he had secured information from a local foodbank about claimants who had faced difficulties with Universal Credit, and he claimed he had ‘discovered’ that many of them were “living in a local hostel that provides temporary accommodation for homeless adults” conflating cause with effects as a matter of prejudice, ideological preference and despicable politcal expediency.

He went on that it “soon became obvious that some of them suffered from underlying problems that affected their ability to manage the transition to Universal Credit, and that forced them into using the food bank”, such as “drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, an inability to manage money, or plain fecklessness”.

It’s not possible to ‘manage’ no money, or amounts that are insufficient to meet basic survival needs. 

He added, disgracefully, that making Universal Credit perfect overnight would not “solve their mental health problems” and issues with drugs and alcohol and “would not make them less feckless” and that “they would still have the same problems, whatever benefits system was put in place”. 

He concluded that he was “glad” that such people were “in the minority” and appeared to suggest that those with mental health problems – and seemingly people with learning difficulties – were to blame for their difficulties with Universal Credit, after adding that there were also “some people who have genuine concerns”.

In 2014, Anglican bishops and the new Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster joined the Left to claim that a national crisis had driven half a million people to use food banks.

Deplorable right wing ideologue Simon Heffer said “Government ministers knew that was nonsense. The level of benefits is, they believe, sufficient to feed those who receive them.”

Yet a huge and growing amount of evidence says otherwise.

He continued: “Though Leftists cynically exploit the existence of food banks as proof that a Tory-led government has inflicted terrible hardship on the poor, there is a widespread belief that some people use them because they have chosen to spend their money, instead, on drink, tobacco, slot machines, tattoos or pornography. This leaves little cash to buy food.” Heffer was advocating the use of prepaid cards welfare cards, to restrict what people can spend their money on, to “incentivise them out of dependency and into work”. 

Exposing Conservative mythologies

them-and-us-640x300 (1)

One of the biggest myths that the Conservatives peddle is that of ‘intergenerational dependency on welfare’. However, only 0.3% of households have two generations that have not worked, according to studies of the Labour Force Survey.  The majority of these households included children who had only come out of education within the last five years and in a third of these households, the member of the younger generation had been out of work for less than a year. The Conservative folk devils created from the “longterm undeserving benefit claimant” sponger stereotype is very much exaggerated.  

Detailed research into what ordinary people think should go into a minimum household budget showed that actual out of work benefits are no way near as generous as some politicians would have you believe – and were actually well below the minimum level before the welfare cuts were implemented.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that while pensioners did receive 100% of what people think they need, a single adult of working age received just 40% of the weekly minimum and a couple with two children received just 62% of the weekly minimum. Those amounts have been further reduced because of the welfare caps, Universal Credit, bedroom tax and reductions in Emloyment and Support Allowance (ESA), council tax support, in a context of ever-rising living costs.   

The biggest part of social security spending – 53% – actually goes to pensioners. Overall, out-of-work benefits account for under a quarter of all welfare spending. Even excluding pensioners’ benefits, nearly half of welfare spending goes on benefits such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, which helps disabled people (both in and out of work) with extra costs; Child Benefit and Tax Credits or Universal Credit to working families; and Statutory Maternity Pay. The majority of children and working age adults in poverty in the UK live in working, not “workless” households. 

Cuts to the social security budget are having a huge impact, and will continue to have an even bigger impact on those in work, especially the poorest families. 

Furthermore, the idea that social security spending has increased and is currently out of control is shown to be incorrect as spending in 2011-12 accounted for 10.4% of GDP, lower than an average of 11% in the mid-1980s and 12% in the mid 1990s. 

The commonly held public perceptions of large numbers of long-term social security claimants are incorrect as less than 10% of Job Seekers Allowance claimants claimed for more than one year. Moreover the majority of people claiming social security support are in work.

An interesting Conservative council’s report on Universal Credit: off the crib sheet 

Sedgemoor in Somerset has a Conservative district council.  Last year the council produced a report about the impact of Universal Credit, which was rolled out in 2016 in Somerset. The intention behind the report was to formally present the findings to the Department for Work and Pensions. 

The authors of the report say that although they support Universal Credit, they are concerned about the way in which the system is being rolled out.  They say that Sedgemoor District Council’s experiences mirror those of both Citizens Advice and Digilink, particularly in terms of the level of support required.

However, they also raised concerns around the administration of the scheme and the additional costs to local service providers. They maintain Universal Credit Telephone Records (and a sample of these are attached as Appendix B in the report).

Here is a list of some of the concerns expressed in the report, which contradict the Conservatives’ official line:

Inadequate support for most vulnerable in Society;
 Lack of understanding of the nature and often severity of some customers’ personal circumstances (see case study 6 on the report);
 Delay in receiving first payment and the need to budget carefully (case study 7);
 Rent element of UC not paid in the first instance and clients using the personal element on housing to stay in their homes until the ‘top-up’ is received;
 Additional work with tenants to prevent them going into arrears (and the additional cost of this to service providers);
 Some concerns that the administration of the virtual call centres around the country are failing, for example through providing inadequate answers and explanation, and these cases are being picked up by Citizens Advice and others;
 The policy of the scheme is set centrally and the delivery of the scheme is controlled  nationally, yet solutions on a local level are needed; 
 Specific issues with some customers unable to make an online application due to no computer/internet access or the skills to do so;
 Inadequate funding to support the scheme, e.g. the £6,000 for Digilink sessions;
 Lack of understanding and explanation of the scheme and the frustration this causes (case studies 8 and 9).

Other concerns raised were that the “DWP’s approach encourages all applicants to take responsibility for their own claim, which means that service providers cannot interact with the DWP without the client being present. Unfortunately, this does not take into account that many of the most vulnerable residents are not in a position to fully manage their own claim, for example, if they do not have the technological skills.”

Despite some Conservatives disgracefully attempting to link food bank use with individuals’ “fecklessness”, in the council’s report it says that the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks in Somerset, has reported nationally that benefit delays/changes remain the biggest cause of foodbank use, accounting for 42% of all referrals, up from about a third the previous year. Around 10,000 emergency food parcels were distributed in Somerset in 2015/16. Bridgwater has seen an increase in referrals in the last year.

The government claim that the social security system is designed to target and provide for those who need support. Yet the report above raises concerns that those most in need are not getting the support they need.

However, it is clear that Conservatives generally believe that many people needing support don’t ‘deserve’ it because of traditionally held Conservative prejudices about poor people. These prejudices are plainly evident in their narratives that justify punitive ‘behavioural change’ policies and the creation of a hostile environment to deter members of the public from accessing a public service that most of them have paid for via taxes and national insurance contributions. 


Related

Universal discredit


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a limited income. But you can help me if you like by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton

Government refuse to publish Brexit impact assessment. We need to ask why

“Despite calls from over 150 MP’s and threats of legal action, the Department for Exiting The European Union are still refusing to publish Brexit impact assessments.” David Lammy.

Whitehall’s internal risk assessments of the impact of leaving the EU on various sectors of the UK economy have remained the private property of the government. The government’s reluctance to publish them has been one of the most controversial, and widely discussed, features of its approach to Brexit. Ministers say that publication would undermine their hand in the Brexit talks and could influence the debate on Brexit if they were revealed. Circulation of the assessment is said to be highly restricted inside government because of its political sensitivity.

However the government’s authoritarian refusal to publish these documents is undemocratic, and it means the public will be intentionally kept in the  dark about Whitehall’s internal analysis over the economic impact of Brexit. Not a government that’s fond of public scrutiny, transparency and democratic accountability, then.

If you think my use of the term “authoritarian” is a bit strong, it’s worth remembering that in 2012, the government was ordered more than once by the Information Commisioner and by a Tribunal to release the risk register document relating to the impact of the controversial Health and Social Care Bill. Ministers vetoed the disclosure, and said that revealing such information would “interfere with policymaking”, and as such, was “not in the public interest.”  However, the Information Tribunal had ruled that the public interest in publishing the risk register was “very high, if not exceptional”.

Nonetheless, it has never been published for the public to see. Over the last 7 years, I have given many other examples of policies and narrative that indicate the Conservative’s strong authoritarian tendency.

The highly controversial Welfare “Reform” Act ( key measures of which were the introduction of Universal Credit, the “bedroom tax”, changes and steep cuts to disability benefits, the introduction of  a harsh and punitive sanctioning regime and the benefit cap) was defeated several times in parliament. The government implemented it nonetheless, by enforcing the “financial privilege” of the Commons in order to ignore the serious concerns raised and the refuse to entertain the mitigating amendments from the House of Lords.

Parliamentary debate regarding Brexit legislation is at a crucial stage, but opposition parties are given very little information before they are expected to make key decisions and vote on them. This is not an isolated or incidental set of circumstances. It’s emerged as a key Conservative strategy over the last few years, to ensure that parliamentary and public scrutiny and debate of controversial legislation is minimal. It’s a government that likes to get its own way, regardless of what the majority of the population may think. 

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, has said: “Brexit isn’t a game – people’s livelihoods and futures are at stake.

The Prime Minister seems to be intentionally keeping people in the dark in her quest to leave the single market and customs union.

The Government must publish their secret impact assessments as soon as possible so people know what’s in store and what the government is putting at risk.

Public services, unions and government need to plan for the future, we can’t do that when the government is hiding so much information from everyone.”

Image result for Brexit memes
There has always been a substantial gap between the Conservatives’ ideological position and economic prudence. Despite assurances earlier this year from the government, the Daily Mail  and the Express that our economy is “thriving”, they have somehow managed to misplace £490bn of our cash. That’s half a trillion pounds. It’s equivalent to 25 per cent of GDP.

This quote from the Daily Mail hasn’t held up very well in the fullness of time:

“In a damning assessment of the scaremongering by the Remain camp, the Office for National Statistics declared that there had been no post-referendum economic shock.”

I think it’s a bit of an economic shock to discover that the UK’s wealth has suddenly diminished from a surplus of £469bn to a net deficit of £22bn, and that investment in the UK by overseas companies and individuals fell from a £120bn surplus in the first half of 2016 to a £25bn deficit, over the same period, in 2017. 

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to leave the EU has itself “raised uncertainty and dented business investment” in the UK, a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned. 

The report says that real wages are being stripped back amid soaring inflation, despite low unemployment. Of course this has been a longstanding problem under successive Conservative governments as they have pared back labor market regulation and undermined the very notion of workers rights and collective bargaining. The balance of power was deliberately tipped against unprotected employees, in favour of exploitative and bad employers.

David Cameron introduced enormous fees of £1,200 for anyone seeking redress from an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal or discrimination. The crippling cost had its intended effect – in one year there was a 67% drop in the number who could afford to use tribunals. Only the highly paid or those backed by a union can now seek help. Women have been the hardest hit as sex discrimination cases fell by over 80% in the first year of fees.

Then there came the Trade Union Act which was deliberately designed to set too high a bar for strikes – a conditional ballot requiring a 50% turnout, and 40% of the electorate to vote yes.

General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, says: 

“Pay packets are taking a hammering. This is the sixth month in a row that prices have risen faster than wages.

Britain desperately needs a pay rise. Working people are earning less today (in real-terms) than a decade ago.

The Chancellor must help struggling families when he gives his Budget next month. This means ditching the artificial pay restrictions on nurses, midwives and other public sector workers. And investing in jobs that people can live on.” 

Despite their eyewateringly disingenuous rhetoric, the Tories have never been “the party of the workers”. Real wages are still shrinking , the cost of living is spiralling upwards, inflation was 2.6% in July (the mid-point of the quarter), and jumped to 3% in September.

Today, in response to the ONS employment report that was published, the Resolution Foundation analyst, Stephen Clarke, says:

“Today’s figures confirm the big picture trend that the UK labour market is great at creating jobs, but terrible at raising people’s pay.

“The scale of the pay squeeze over the last decade is so vast that people today are earning no more than they did back in February 2006, despite the economy being 4.4 per cent bigger per person since then.”

Britons would need a £15 per week pay rise to get back to the levels before the financial crisis.

Brexit, the economy and more shenanigans

The 140-page annual report from the OECD outlines the state of Britain’s economy 16 months after last year’s EU Leave vote.

It also says the deadlock in talks has put Britain on course for a “disorderly Brexit”, suggesting: “In case Brexit gets reversed by political decision (change of majority, new referendum, etc), the positive impact on growth would be significant.” 

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats said it was clear from the OECD report that a second vote was needed to prevent the harm caused by Brexit.

Jo Swinson said: “Brexit has already caused the UK to slip from top to bottom of the international growth league for major economies.

“This will only get worse if the government succeeds in dragging us out of the single market and customs union, or we end up crashing out of Europe without a deal.”

At least 20 members of May’s cabinet backed remaining in the EU in the run-up to last year’s referendum. 

The Treasury and Conservative ministers have rejected the OECD’s suggestion of second Brexit referendum, despite the warning from the thinktank that Britain must stay close to the EU or face long-term decline, and that reversing the decision to leave would significantly benefit the economy. 

I wonder if Philip Hammond’s Autumn budget on 22 November will continue to push the “balancing the budget” theme – a Conservative euphemism for more austerity, and the poorest citizens having to live within the governments’ dwindling and increasingly miserly “means,” now that he’s somehow misplaced a massive amount from the public purse. It’s going to be very difficult to woo the electorate with such a backdrop of even more looming poverty for the demographic that Conservatives usually direct their traditional prejudices at. For many of us, the “no gain without [your] pain” mantra doesn’t endear the Conservatives or switch on our confidence in their “long-term economic plan”.

There is a veritable chasm between policy and democracy, rhetoric and empirical evidence, not forgetting the galaxy-sized space between facts and techniques of persuasion. Maybe the Conservatives are still trying to convince themselves, in the their typical blustering, unreachable, non-dialogic “because we say so” way that always indicates denial and authoritarianism, that they can persuade a cut-weary public that austerity will suddenly work if we persist for yet another decade.

The “paying down the debt” deadline set by the chancellor has become an elusive goalpost, forever retreating into the future, and now we are expected to believe that by 2025, our economy will be fine and we’ll have a comfortable surplus instead of an ever greedy black hole of trillions.

Back in 2010, we were reassured by George Osborne that the government’s aim was for the deficit to be eliminated by 2015, and in his first budget he said that aim would be achieved, based on the government forecasts of the time. That didn’t happen. By November in 2011, the first surplus was forecast for 2016/17. By December 2013, it had been pushed back again to 2017/18. Now it’s been pushed back to 2025.

That’s providing that the public continue to believe the Conservatives have a shred of economic credibility for the forseeable, of course. Personally, I think that people are starting to grasp that the continuing radical cuts to public spending the economy will continue to shrink rather than expand the economy, because it’s not rocket science, and besides, we have now witnessed 7 years worth of empirical evidence that austerity does not work the way the Conservatives say it will. There’s only so many times that the Conservatives can get away with saying “but the economic damage was greater than we feared”.

The Tories have succeeded in being economical with the truth. But the fullness of time itself – the last 7 long years – has been a very good test of verisimilitude. The Conservatives failed. The public have noticed.

Only months ago, before the election, the government were boasting about the economic “recovery”. Yet when it comes to actual policies, we see more miserly austerity cuts, juxtaposed with generous tax cuts for very wealthy people, and the justification narratives always sound as if those carrying the brunt of austerity cuts – our poorest citizens: disabled people, young people, those on the lowest wages, public sector workers and so on – are somehow culpable personally for the state of the economy, inequality and poverty.

Some disabled people have been forced by the state to “tighten their belts” on behalf of the nation to the point that it has actually killed them. I can’t help but wonder how long the public are willing to sacrifice politically marginalised groups in the name of “the national interest” and “the deficit” just for the sake of fulfilling economic dogma, traditional Conservative prejudice and nasty, antisocial ideology.

The revised figures from the Office for National Statistics figures have weakened the governments’ position in Brexit talks. On Monday, the prime minister is meeting with European Union leaders, Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, a matter of only days after the exit negotiations were deadlocked.

The OECD said Britain must secure “the closest possible economic relationship” with the EU after Brexit to prevent the economy suffering a long-term decline.

Angel Gurría, the OECD’s secretary general, said Brexit would be as harmful as the second world war blitz and the British would need to act on the propaganda maxim to “keep calm and carry on.” That doesn’t exactly bode well. 

The revision of UK national accounts, the ONS “Blue Book”, shows that the country no longer has a net reserve of foreign assets, and therefore no safety margin while talks with the European Union reach a critical point, as time runs out to reach an agreement.

Is no prime minister better than a bad prime minister?

The half a trillion pounds that has gone missing is equivalent to 25 per cent of GDP.  

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that if we leave without a deal, trade with the EU would fall by as much as 29%, costing the UK economy between £48.6 billion and £58 billion – the equivalent to between £741 and £884 per person.

The Treasury, rather worryingly,  is equally pessimistic saying it could cost 800,000 jobs, cut GDP by 6% and see the pound fall by 15%.

The Conservatives have succeeded in raising employment figures, but all that means in reality is that more people earning smaller wages.

And the pay squeeze is set to continue.

Maike Currie, investment director for Personal Investing at Fidelity International, says the rise of the ‘gig’ economy, and the government’s public sector pay cap, are partly to blame for the wage squeeze:

Another month, another fall in real household incomes. Today’s wage growth figures show our total earnings including bonuses grew at just 2.2% in the three months to August . With yesterday’s CPI figures showing inflation spiking to an eye watering 3%, the gap between our pay packets and the cost of goods and services continues to remain vast – our wages are not keeping up with the rising cost of living.

“The absence of wage growth remains the missing piece of the puzzle in the UK’s slow road to recovery – high employment should be the worker’s best friend because that’s what pushes up wages. With UK unemployment at a 45-year low, one would think that workers’ bargaining power at the wage negotiation table would improve, yet earnings growth remains elusive and the UK’s workforce is getting poorer. There are many potential reasons for this ranging from poor productivity to the squeeze on public sector pay and the rise of self-employment in the so-called ‘gig economy’.

Treasury documents showed Britain could lose up to £66bn a year if it pursues the hard Brexit option – leaving the single market and EU customs union.

Yet May’s Conservative conference speech signalled that the UK will prioritise immigration over single market access in Brexit talks, which also sent confidence in pound sterling plummeting.

While the longer-term economic impacts of Brexit are yet to unfold, and surprise everyone except the government, today’s report from the Resolution Foundation think-tank strongly suggests that the lowest paid could once again be hardest hit. It’s like everything this government touches upon immediately loses its value.

A draft Cabinet committee paper, which is based on a controversial study published by George Osborne in April during the referendum campaign, says:

“The net impact on public sector receipts – assuming no contributions to the EU and current receipts from the EU are replicated in full –would be a loss of between £38 billion and £66 billion per year after 15 years, driven by the smaller size of the economy.”

This evening the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Better Brexit for Young People released a report on the concerns and priorities for Britain’s youth during the Brexit negotiations. The report, compiled in association with LSE, gathered data from forty focus groups of 18 to 24-year-olds from varying economic, geographical and social backgrounds over an eleven-month period from November 2016 to September 2017.

The report, which is divided into three sections, explores youth views on the current state of Brexit, their concerns about Brexit and their priorities for Brexit negotiations.

In the introduction, it says: 

“[Respondents] spoke of their concern about the economic pressures they face with regard to housing, jobs, and education, and the political, social and economic direction of travel that Brexit represents”.

This opinion, says The LSE say that this is an opinion that was shared by over 90 per cent of those surveyed, demonstrating an overwhelmingly negative view of Brexit and its consequences. It’s clear that the referendum stirred feelings among many young people  of sadness, anger and frustration at the outcome of the referendum, and some of that was directed at people who voted to leave – the majority being older generations.  The government chose not to give the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds in the referendum. It is fair to ask whether allowing them to vote could have changed the result of the referendum or not.

Neoliberalism: more business as usual

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the near meltdown of the global financial system would prompt a comprehensive rethink of the principles underlying neoliberalism. Instead, the crisis was exploited to de-fund social welfare provision on a grand scale, to dismantle the social gains from our post-war settlement ) legal aid, the NHS and other public service provision, social housing and civil rights, and to hand out our public funds to a small and very wealthy cabal. Austerity socialised losses for the poorest, and privatised hand outs in the form of tax cuts. Labor market deregulation and increasing trade union regulation also benefitted the wealthiest, resulting in the growth of exploitative wages, job insecurity and poor employment practices for ordinary people, and big profits for the wealthiest. 

Immediately following the referendum result, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), a free market thinktank, revealed what many of us suspected – Brexit has presented the Conservatives with a cornucopia of opportunities to extend the principles of an already overarching, totalisin ideology to its absolute limits. The CPS said:

“The weakness of the Labour party and the resolution of the EU question have created a unique political opportunity to drive through a wide-ranging … revolution on a scale similar to that of the 1980s … This must include removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses, such as those related to climate directives and investment fund[s].”

Shortly after, George Osborne proposed to cut corporation tax from 20% to below 15%, to staunch the haemorrhage of investment. During the coming months and years, the unfolding Brexit fueled economic crisis will provide countless pretexts for similar “emergency measures” that solely benefit big business profits and of course “roll back the state”. 

This is inevitable if the current government remain in office. There will be no Brexit risk assessment available to the public. There will be no vote in parliament, no second referendum, no fresh elections: just the most massive, scheming and authoritarian legislative programme in history within the current parliament, in which the Tories command an absolute majority based on 37% of the votes cast in the last general election.

So much for “taking back democratic control”. 

Tom Coberg, writing for the Canary, says:

“[…] it was not long after the 2016 EU referendum that one commentator observed how the Conservatives appeared to be adopting tactics akin to “disaster capitalism“. And that with Brexit:

[…] the prize is the opportunity to rework an almost infinite range of detailed arrangements both inside and outside the UK, to redraw at breakneck speed the legal framework that will govern all aspects of our lives.

May has begun to prepare the public for this. And according to Joe Owen of the Institute for Government, the civil service drew up plans for a ‘no deal’ “months ago”. Though, given the close links between the Tories and Legatum, such a scenario may have been the plan all along.

Or to put it another way: extreme Tory Brexit looks as if it could mean exploitation of the many, for the benefit of the few.”

 We are taking our country back. 

We’re heading for the feudal era, singing Hayek’s deadly anthem all the way. 

When the “free market” came to Chile

 


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

DonatenowButton

Disabled people’s human rights in further jeopardy because of Brexit

equality+act+image

The UK government has tended to regard human rights as optional; as being rather more like ‘guidelines’ than laws, and often, as a mere inconvenience and barrier to the fulfillment of their ideological commitments.

Opportunities for disabled people in the workplace are likely to come under further threat unless government prioritises the recreation of EU safeguards into British statute. That is according to diversity consultancy, The Clear Company, which contributes to the government’s Disability Confident Campaign.

Former Paralympian Baroness Grey-Thompson has also warned that leaving the European Union would prevent British people with disabilities benefiting from plans to boost accessibility.

She added that Brexit would also risk a recession that would leave less money to be spent on support services. She said:

“Our membership of the European Union has had real, positive benefits for the millions of UK residents with limiting long-term illnesses, impairments or disabilities.

“It has helped to counter workplace discrimination, obliged transport providers to make their services more accessible and secured access to some UK disability benefits for Britons living in other EU countries.

“Not only would leaving Europe jeopardise these, it would close us off from enjoying the rewards of upcoming legislation that will further increase accessibility and risk a recession that would leave less money to be spent on much-needed support services.”

Fiona McGhie, Public Law expert at Irwin Mitchell, said:

“What Brexit would affect is the ability to potentially rely on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) which in particular includes many wider social and economic rights, such as the rights to fair and just working conditions, to healthcare and to have personal data protected. If disabled people wished to try and strike down UK legislation as incompatible with rights under CFR under EU law – that avenue may not be available after the vote to leave.”

In the wake of the referendum, the following is an official press release from ResponseSource, which is a journalist enquiry service that provides a press release wire:

The EU promotes the active inclusion and full participation of disabled people in society, in line with the EU human rights approach to disability issues, through priorities including accessibility, participation, social protection and external action. It works around a firm ethos that disability is a rights issue rather than a matter for discretion.

From an employment perspective, the objective of the European Commission’s European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 is to significantly raise the number of people with disabilities working in the open labour market. They represent one-sixth of the EU’s overall working-age population, but their employment rate is comparatively low at around 50%.

The EU promotes the active inclusion and full participation of disabled people in society, in line with the EU human rights approach to disability issues, through priorities including accessibility, participation, social protection and external action. It works around a firm ethos that disability is a rights issue rather than a matter for discretion.

Commenting on this morning’s revelation, Kate Headley, Development Director at The Clear Company, said:

“As long as the UK was part of the EU, disabled people had the benefit of EU frameworks and directives to act as a safety-net against British government and any power it may exert. Now, the future of policy which most affects disabled people is in the hands of Whitehall alone.

“There is no doubt that EU-derived laws, and EU-led initiatives, have had a largely positive impact on the disabled community. This may explain why Miro Griffiths, a former government adviser and project officer for the European Network on Independent Living, recently went on record to say he believed that Britain’s exit from the EU “would have dire consequences for disabled people”. Our priority now is to help ensure that the rights disabled people currently hold are protected post-Brexit.

“Aside from the issues of how the UK’s decision to exit will impact the NHS and wider care services, the European Health Insurance Card, and EU Air Passengers Regulation – all of which disproportionately affect those with disabilities – we must also look at the effect on disabled people in the workplace.”

“The EU’s record on assisting disabled workers is strong. Its Employment Equality Directive 2000, for example, led to the removal of the original exemption in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for employers with fewer than 20 staff in the UK, so that in 2004 it became unlawful for any UK employer to discriminate against disabled people. The employment directive also led to the DDA being changed to make direct discrimination by employers against disabled people unlawful.”

“The TUC has identified employment rights that could well be under threat from a government no longer required to comply with EU legislation. Many of these promote health and well-being at work and home, such as the Working Time Directive, which protects from stress and ill-health that arise from working excessive hours including health service workers.”

“I would urge the government, post Article 50, to recreate the safeguards that disabled people have benefited from under EU membership into British statute. We will gladly continue to support the government in the development of strategy and stand by our commitment to support employers and employees alike. Amid the avalanche of new legislation which will almost certainly flood Whitehall in the coming months, laws that safeguard and support disabled workers must be prioritised as EU law recedes.”

Related

Unfortunately, the UK government has systematically violated the human rights of disabled people. It’s highly unlikely, given the current context, that the Conservatives will recreate the EU safeguards and incorporate them in protective legislation.

The new Work and Health Programme: government plan social experiments to “nudge” sick and disabled people into work

Prime minister dismisses UN inquiry into government’s discriminatory treatment of disabled people

The biggest barrier that disabled people face is a prejudiced government

The Government’s brutal cuts to disability support isn’t ‘increasing spending’, Chancellor, but handing out tax cuts to the rich is

If even the DWP isn’t Disability Confident, how will a million disabled people get jobs? – Bernadette Meaden

Austerity Is a Choice, Labour Must Offer Another – Jeremy Corbyn

1459720_569627496440116_902730897_n

Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity. When the Chancellor rose to his feet at the emergency Budget in July, and when he does so for his Spending Review in October, what is being put forward is an ideologically-driven rolling back of the state.

The analysis published today by the TUC reveals how the Budget gives money to the rich, but takes away from the poor.

jeremy corbyn

This is the Conservative project, dressed up in the post-crisis language of budget deficits and national debt for extra impetus. Inequality doubled under the Thatcher government, and her heirs seem to be doing all they can to ensure that legacy is extended.

The Budget showed austerity is about political choices, not economic necessities. There is money available: the inheritance tax cuts announced in the Budget will lose the exchequer over £2.5billion in revenue between now and 2020. What responsible government committed to closing the deficit would give a tax break that only applies to the richest 4% of households?

The Conservatives are giving away to the very rich in inheritance tax cuts twice as much as reducing the benefit cap will raise by further impoverishing the poorest, and socially cleansing many towns and cities.

Another choice was to cut UK corporation tax to 18%, which at 20% is already the lowest in the G7, lower too than the 25% in China, and half the 40% rate in the United States.

The Treasury estimates that this political choice will see our revenue intake from big business fall by £2.5billion in 2020. That’s nearly twice the amount saved by cutting the tax credits available families with more than two children.

In such circumstances, Labour must be clear: we oppose the Budget, and we oppose austerity. As a group of 40 economists wrote to the Observer a few weeks ago, “opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF”.

The language of “bringing down the deficit” is non-controversial, it is the method (austerity) that reveals the Chancellor’s agenda as just a cover for the same old Conservative policies: run down public services, slash the welfare state, sell-off public assets and give tax cuts to the wealthiest.

I stood in this race because Labour should not swallow the story that austerity is anything other than a new facade for the same old Conservative plans.

We must close the deficit, but to do so we will make the economy work for all, and create a more equal and prosperous society. Bringing down the deficit on the backs of those on low and average incomes will only mean more debt, more poverty, more insecurity, more anxiety and ultimately more crisis.

We must invest in a more productive economy. Our national infrastructure – energy, housing, transport, digital – is outdated, leaving the UK lagging behind other developed economies. In the Budget, the Chancellor cut back public investment even further.

You cannot cut your way to prosperity. We need to invest in our future. And that takes a strategic state that seeks to shape the economy so that it works for all.

That is the choice for Britain and the choice that Labour must offer.

Jeremy Corbyn is the Labour MP for Islington North and Labour Party leader.

This article was originally published on 7.09.15

1450041_569755536427312_1698223275_n
Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

 

The alternative narrative – Corbyn’s full speech to the TUC

Sisters and brothers, thank you very much for inviting me here today.  I must admit it seems to be a very fast journey we are on at the present time and, to me, it is an enormous honour to be invited to address the TUC.  It only seems a very short time ago that your General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, did me the honour of coming to speak at the nominating meeting in my constituency, Islington North, and now she has invited me here to address the TUC.  I am very grateful, Frances, for what you did there and I am delighted to be here today because I am, and always will be, an active trade unionist.  That is in my body.

I have been a trade union member all my life.  I was an organiser for the National Union of Public Employees before I became a Member of Parliament.  I realise this is deeply controversial because they are now part of Unison but you can only be in one union at a time; you know the problem.  That taught me a great deal about people, about values, and about the value of trade unions in the everyday lives of ordinary people.  School cleaners, they have a hard time, school meals workers being badly treated, school caretakers looking for some security in their jobs, all those issues that are day-to-day work of trade unions and those that attack and criticise trade unions should remember this.

There are six million of us in this country.  We are the largest voluntary organisation in Britain.  Every day we make a difference in looking after people in their ordinary lives as well as a huge contribution in the wider community.  Unions are not just about the workplace, they are also about society as a whole, life as a whole, and the right of the working class to have a voice in society as a whole.  That is why trade unionism is so important.

We celebrate the values of solidarity, of compassion, of social justice, fighting for the under-privileged, and of working for people at home and abroad.  Whilst we value and protect the rights that we have in this country, the same thing does not apply to trade unionists all over the world.  Those people that died in that dreadful fire in China where there was a free market philosophy around the operation of a port, fire-fighters died trying to protect other workers who should have been protected by decent health and safety conditions.  All around the world, Colombia and many other places, trade unionists try to survive trying to stand up for their rights.

Trade unions in Britain have achieved a fantastic amount in protection and in the wider society.  We need to stand in solidarity with trade unionists all over the world demanding exactly the same things as we have secured for ourselves and trying to defend for ourselves.  Trade unionism is a worldwide movement, not just a national movement and we should never be ashamed to say that.

There are those that say trade unions are a thing of the past and the idea of solidarity, unity, and community are a thing of the past.  Ever since this Labour leadership election was announced, and I have taken part in it, I have spoken at 99 different events all over Britain, 99 events in 99 days.  Those events were often very large.  They would bring together people that had been estranged from the Labour movement or indeed from the Labour Party and they would bring together young people who had not been involved in that kind of politics before.

What brought them together was a sense of optimism and hope.  What brought them together was a sense of the way things can be done better in politics in Britain.

Those values I want restored to the heart of the Labour Party, which was of course itself a creation of the trade unions and socialists in the first place.  I have some news to report to you.  Ever since last Saturday, large numbers of people have been joining the Labour Party and the last figure I got, that was Saturday afternoon, 30,000 people have become members of the Labour Party.   Our membership is now more than a third of a million, and rising.  Over half a million people were able to take part in that election.

But the values that people bring to joining the Party and the Party brings to them have to be things that we fight for every single day.  I want the unions and the Labour Party to work together to win people over to the basic values we all accept, to change minds, and change politics, so that we can have a Labour government, we can look in a different direction, we can look away from the policy of growing inequality and look to a society that grows in equality, in confidence, in involvement of everybody, and does not allow the gross levels of poverty and inequality to get worse in Britain.  That is what the Tories have in store for us.

But Labour must become more inclusive and open and I have had the very interesting task in the last few days of a number of events and a number of challenges.

The first thing I did on being elected was to go and speak at a rally in saying Refugees are Welcome Here because they are victims of human rights abuses and other abuses.   I thought it was important to give that message out, that we recognise human rights abuses and the victims of it all over the world from wherever they come, they are human beings just like you and me, we hold out our hands and our hearts to them, and we want to work with them for a safer and better world.  They are seeking the same things that we are seeking.

Later, the next day, I wanted also to give a message about how we intend to do things and the kind of society we want.  So, I was very proud to accept an invitation to attend a mental health open day in my constituency, or a nearby constituency, to show that we believe the NHS is vital and valuable as it obviously and absolutely is but there are many people who suffer in silence from mental health conditions, suffer the abuse that often goes with those conditions, and the rest of society passes by on the other side.  Mental illness is an illness just like any other, it can be recovered from, but we have to be prepared to spend the time and the resources and end the stigma surrounding mental illness which often comes with stress, workplace stress, poverty, and many other things.

There are other messages we have to put and the media has been absolutely full of midnight oil burning sessions in appointments to the new Shadow Cabinet of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  After consideration and thought, and lots of discussion, we have assembled and appointed a Shadow Cabinet of a majority of women members for the first time ever in history.

To show how determined we are on a number of specific areas of policy, there is a specific Shadow Minister, Luciana Berger, who is dealing with mental health issues.  She will be at the table along with everyone else, and there is a specific Minister dealing with housing, and that is because I believe that John Healey will put the case very well.  The issue is that we have to address the housing crisis that faces so many people all over this country.  The free market is not solving the problem of homelessness.

The free market is not allowing people to lead reasonable lives when they are paying excessive rents in the private-rented sector. We have to change our housing policies fundamentally by rapidly increasing a council house building programme to give real security to people’s lives.

But there are other issues that we have to address, and that is how we make our party and our movement more democratic. The election process that I have just come through was an electorate of 558,000 people, the largest electorate ever for an internal party election.  The number of votes that were cast for me were more than twice the total membership of the Tory Party in the whole country.  That is something to savour.

But all those people coming forward to take part in this process came forward, yes, because they were interested, yes, because they were hopeful but, yes, because they wanted to be part of a democratic process where we make policy together.  We live in a digital age, we live in an age where communications are much easier and we live in an age where we can put our views to each other in a much quicker and in a much more understandable form.  So we don’t need to have policymaking that is top down from an all-seeing, all-knowing leader who decides things.  I want everybody to bring their views forward, every union branch, every party branch and every union, so we develop organically the strengths we all have, the ideas we all have and the imagination we all have.

When we have all had a say in how we develop, say, the housing policy, or, say, the health policy, say any other particular area of environmental protection or anything else, if everyone has been involved in that policymaking, they own the policy that is there at the end.  They are more determined to campaign and fight for it. They are more likely to mobilise many more people around it, so we don’t go through until 2020 with a series of surprises, but we go through to 2020 with a series of certainties, that we are a growing, stronger movement, we are more confident and more determined than ever and, above all, we are going to win in 2020 so we see the end of this Tory Government.

When politicians get out of touch with reality, they sometimes forget where skillsets really lie.  Can I give you an example.  When I was a union organiser, we used to get involved in negotiations about work-study arrangements, the time it took to drive a van from place A to place B and how long it took to load the van, all those kind of issues.  So we would go in there and start negotiations, and I would always go to the branch meeting before hand and say, “Who here is keen on betting?”

Every hand went up, of course.  “Who’s the best at betting?”  One particular hand would be pointed to, and I would say, “Can you come along to the negotiations?”  “Why?”  Because that member had brilliant skills at mental arithmetic — this was pre computer days — and he would work out very quickly, and he would say sotto voce to me, “They are lying to you, Jerry. Don’t accept it”, or whatever.   Skills at the workplace, skills of ordinary people, knowledge of ordinary people.  The elite in our society look with contempt on people with brilliance and ideas just because  they don’t speak like them or look like them.  Let’s do things differently and do things together.

Had we had a different approach, would we now have the millstone of private finance initiatives around the necks of so many hospitals and so many schools in this country, or would we, instead, have a more sensible form of public sector borrowing to fund for investment and fund for the future, rather than handing over our public services to hedge funds, which is exactly what this Government would like us to do?  Be confident, be strong.  We have lots of knowledge and lots of power.

I have worked with unions affiliated to the Labour Party and not affiliated to the Labour Party, and I work with all trade unions because I think that is what the Leader of the Labour Party should do.  I think the Leader of the Labour Party, if invited, should always be at the TUC. I see it as an organic link.

I want to say a special mention to one group of workers who are here.  They are doing their best to defend something we all own, know and love.  Welcome to those strikers from PCS from the National Gallery for what they are going through at the present time.   They look after our national treasures in the National Gallery.  They do it well.

They love what they do and they love what we have got in our National Gallery.  Please, let’s not privatise our galleries and privatise our staff.  We welcome and we recognise the skills of those people who work in all those places and so many other places as being a precious national asset, not something to be traded away on the market of privatisation.  Well done to you for your campaign.

Yesterday the Tories put the Second Reading of the Trade Union Bill to Parliament, and, sadly, it achieved its Second Reading and it has now gone into Committee.  Basically, they are declaring war on organised labour in this country ever since they won the General Election, albeit with the support of 24% of the electorate.  Yesterday, I was proud to sit alongside Angela Eagle on our Front Bench to oppose the Trade Union Bill, and she rightly said, and I quote: “This Bill is a dangerous attack on basic liberties that would not be tolerated by the Conservative Party if they were imposed on any other section of society.”  Stephen Doughty gave an excellent reply, and Labour MPs spoke with passion, knowledge and understanding of the dangers of this Bill.

It is quite interesting how the Tories champion deregulation wherever regulation is ever mentioned.  How many times have we heard that, Ministers for Deregulation, Departments for Deregulation, Ministers who will tear up all regulations?  But one thing they really want to regulate is organised labour and the trade unions in this country. I think that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, don’t you?

So we have to oppose it and recognise what they are doing.  The burdens they are placing, as one Tory MP admitted, are actually the strategy that was used by General Franco in Spain on his control of the trade unions in Spain.  They seem to still think that it is right just to attack trade unions because they exist.  I am not going to be lectured to by saying, “If the Labour Party gets too close to unions it puts us all on the back foot.”  I am sorry.  Trade unions are an essential and valuable part of modern Britain.  Six million people voluntarily join trade unions and I am proud to be a trade unionist.  That is why we are going to fight this Bill all the way.  When we have been elected with a majority in 2020, we are going to repeal this Bill and replace it with a workers’ rights agenda and something decent and proper for the future.

Every difficulty actually gives you an opportunity, and the difficulty is that this Bill has been placed in front of us, but it gives us the opportunity to defend civil liberties and traditional freedoms and explain to the wider public, beyond trade union members and others, that it is actually a threat to the liberties of all of us.  Because by calling into question the right of free association of trade unions they are actually in contravention, in my view, of Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

They are also in contravention, as Stephen pointed out in his reply yesterday, to the International Labour Organisation conventions.  So we are going to continue our opposition to this.  They are threatening the right of peaceful protest by looking to criminalise picketing.  They are even threatening the right to free speech by seeking to limit what a union member can say on social media during a dispute.  Are we really going to have teams of civil servants or lawyers or police or somebody trawling through massive numbers of twitter messages, Facebook messages, to find something somebody said about their employer or about an industrial dispute?

What kind of intrusive society are they really trying to bring about.  We have got to fight this Bill all the way, because if they get it through it’s a damage to civil liberties and for everybody in our society.  They will use it as a platform to make other attacks on other sections of our community. Let’s be strong about this.

We also have to promote trade unionism and understand that good trade unions, good trade union organisation, yes, it protects people in the workplace, yes, it leads to better pay, better conditions and better salaries and better promotional opportunities as a whole, but it also means there is often better management in those places where unions are very strong.  The two things actually go together and are very important.  Where unions are weak, job security is weak, conditions get worse and you look at the results of what this Conservative Government are doing.  They want to raise the threshold on strike ballots, so I would like to ask the Prime Minister this question: if you want trade unions to vote in ballots, why leave unions with the most archaic, expensive, inefficient method of voting you could find, why not modernise the balloting?

Above all, why not go forward and secure workplace balloting ensuring that every member of a trade union can vote securely and secretly at their own workplace?  That, surely, is something we all want in this Bill for ourselves.

But they are also attacking the rights of trade unions to be involved in the wider society.  The Tories have always been concerned about the right of trade unions to be involved in political actions in any way.  Why shouldn’t workers, organised together in a union, express a political view?  Why shouldn’t they use their funds, if they wish, on political or public campaigning?  We had the Act in the last Parliament that restricted the participation of unions and charities in public commentary during elections.  This is taking it a stage even further.  They seem quite relaxed about the involvement of hedge funds and funny money in politics.  They seem absolutely obsessed with the cleanest money in politics, which is trade union funds being used for political campaigning.

So we are going to oppose this Bill with every opportunity we get. We are going to expose it for what it is and we are going to try and stop it passing. As I have said, we will try to replace this Bill with something much better.

But there are other issues that we have to remind ourselves about what is going on at the present time. The Welfare Reform Bill is anything but welfare reform. It is all about building on the cuts they have already made, making the lives of the most vulnerable and poorest people in our society even worse.  The disability benefits cuts that have been made over the past five years and the availability of the work test have had some disastrous — appalling — consequences where people have even committed suicide and taken their own lives out of a sense of desperation. I simply ask the question: what kind of a society are we living in where we deliberately put regulations through knowing what the effects are going to be on very poor and very vulnerable people who end up committing suicide?  And we say it is all part of a normal process.  No, it is not!

The reduction in the benefit cap has the effect of socially cleansing many parts of our cities.

Owen Smith and I had discussions last night about amendments that we are going to put down to the Welfare Reform Bill. As far as I am concerned, the amendments we are putting forward are to remove the whole idea of the benefit cap altogether. We need to raise wages and regulate rents rather than to have a welfare system that do things, of subsidising high rents and low wages.  Surely, we can do things differently and better if we really want to?  We will bring down the welfare bill in Britain by controlling rents and boosting wages, not by impoverishing families and the most vulnerable people.

I have to leave straightaway after I have concluded my remarks here because I want to be back in Parliament to vote against their attempt to cut the tax credits that act as a lifeline to millions of people.  Barnados say it will take £1,200 per year away from a lone parent of two working full time on the minimum wage.  The Government says there is no alternative to this. John McDonnell, our new Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, is setting out what the alternatives are.

They call us “deficit deniers”, but then they spend billions in cutting taxes for the richest families and for the most profitable businesses.  What they are as is “poverty deniers”.  They are ignoring the growing queues at food banks; they are ignoring the housing crisis; they are cutting tax credits when child poverty rose by half-a-million under the last government to over four million.  Let’s be clear. Austerity is actually a political choice that this Government has taken and they are imposing it on the most vulnerable and poorest in our society.

It is our job as Labour to set out a vision for a better society and campaign proudly against Britain’s greatest democratic organisation, the trade union Movement.  Our shared vision will be delivered by shared campaigning, a Labour Party proud to campaign for the trade unions and a trade union Movement proud to campaign with Labour.  We have a job to do, to understand the process that has been going through in politics in Britain, to understand the levels of inequality that are there, to understand the levels of insecurity of people on zero-hours contracts, students with massive debts and understand the stress and tension that so many people have.

We are actually quite a rich country. We are actually a country that is deeply unequal. Surely, the whole vision of those who founded our unions and founded our political parties was about doing things differently. That generation, those brilliant people brought us the right to vote, got women the right to vote, brought us the National Health Service and brought us so many other things. We build on that in the way we do our policy, we build on that in the way we develop our movement, and we build on that in the way that we inspire people to come together for a better, more decent, more equal, fairer and more just society.  These things are not dreams.  These things are practical realities that we, together, intend to achieve.

Thank you very much.

__

See also – A change is gonna come: new page, new Labour

Image result for corbyn at TUC

David Cameron promised a further £7.2 BILLION tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the poor

1450041_569755536427312_1698223275_n

I wrote an article last year – Follow the Money: Tory Ideology is all about handouts to the wealthy that are funded by the poor – which outlines Coalition policies that have widened inequalities and increased poverty by handing out public money to the wealthy that has been taken from the poorest. I pointed out that this Government have raided our tax-funded welfare provision and used it to provide handouts to the very wealthy – £107,000 EACH PER YEAR in the form of a tax break for millionaires, amongst other things.

And what does our imperturbable chancellor promise if this disgrace of a government is re-elected? True to Tory form, more of the same: austerity for the poor and public services cuts, and tax breaks for the wealthiest.

But further cuts to lifeline benefits and public services is surely untenable. Absolute poverty has risen dramatically, this past four years, heralding the return of Victorian illnesses that are associated with malnutrition. People have died as a consequence of the welfare “reforms”. Supporting the wealthy has already cost the poorest so very much, yet this callous, indifferent, morally nihilistic  government are casually discussing taking even more from those with the very least.

This isn’t anything to do with economic necessity: it’s all about Tory ideology. Under the guise of austerity, the Tory-led Coalition have stripped our welfare and public services down to the bare bones. Any further cuts will destroy what remains of our post-war settlement.

Despite facing a global recession, the Labour Government invested in our public services, and borrowed substantially less in thirteen years than the Coalition have in just three years. UK citizens were sheltered very well from the worst of the global bank-induced crash.

Gordon Brown got it right in his championing of the G20 fiscal stimulus, agreed at the London summit of early April 2010, which was a continuation of his policies that had served to steer the UK economy out of the consequences of a global recession, and to protect citizens from the consequences of cuts to services and welfare.

Osborne’s policy of imposing austerity and budget cuts on an economy that was actually recovering was a catastrophic error. The austerity propelled the economy backwards and into depression; and, far from using public spending as a countervailing force against the cutbacks in private sector investment, the Coalition’s budget cuts served to aggravate the crisis. Many people are suffering terribly as a consequence, reduced to a struggle for survival.

And in these socio-economic circumstances, the Tories have pledged a further £7.2 BILLION tax cuts to the rich. The funding for the tax cuts will come from further catastrophic “savings” made at the expense of the poorest yet again – £25 billion more to be sliced from welfare, Local Authorities,  education, police and other vital services.

Three things are immediately clear. Firstly, without the ramping up of VAT in 2010, to 20%, Osborne would be in even more dire financial straits than he is.

Secondly, income tax has, despite allegedly rising employment, failed to increase.

Thirdly, corporation tax, targeted for cuts, year after year, has slumped. The tax system is increasingly veering toward very regressive – biased in favour of the wealthy – consumption taxes, which affects the poorest, most, and failing to deliver fairer taxes on income.

This is the result of government policy: increasing VAT but cutting corporation tax, and the engineered kind of “recovery” we have ended up with. The Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) reminded us in October of the extent of the Coalition’s failure to reduce the deficit.

Public sector net borrowing in 2013-14 was originally expected to be £60 billion; the out-turn for borrowing was £108 billion (on a comparable basis). This amounts to a shortfall of nearly £50 billion, with borrowing approaching double the original predictions made when the government’s austerity policies were announced in 2010.

Much of this shortfall is accounted for by the current earnings crisis. UK workers are suffering the longest and most severe decline in real earnings since records began in Victorian times, according to an analysis published by the TUC. But Tories always lower wages, and hike up the cost of living. And whilst workers are struggling to make ends meet, private business owners/Tory donors are raking in millions of pounds. But this is exactly how Tories like to run society in a nutshell.

It’s their imposition of a feudalist schemata for social relationships. Cognitively, Tories are the equivalent of historical egocentric toddlers: they are stuck at this painful stage of arrested development.

“The deficit reduction programme takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement” – stated in the Coalition Agreement.

For a government whose raison d’etre is deficit reduction, the Coalition really isn’t very good at all. But austerity reflects the triumph of discriminatory Tory ideology over needs-led, evidenced-based policy making.

The OBR said the forecast from 2010 was over-optimistic because it did not take into consideration the effect of lower wages as well as a higher levels of tax-free personal allowance on the upper brackets of income tax. National Insurance contributions were also £7.4 billion below forecast.

Which brings us back to the issue of further tax cuts for the wealthy, with no mention of raising wages for the poorer work-force, and of course there is the promise of more cuts to come for those relying on lifeline benefits. I don’t think that the Coalition cares that their policies don’t balance the books, as it were, or mend the economy. Nor do they care what the consequences are for the wider public.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

The government’s failure to get wages growing again has not only left families far worse off than in 2010, it’s put the public finances in a mess too. The economy has become very good at creating low-paid jobs, but not the better paid work that brings in income tax. The Chancellor’s sums just don’t add up – he can’t make the tax cuts for the better off that he is promising and meet his deficit reduction target without making cuts to public services.

His cuts would be so deep that no government could deliver them without doing damage to both the economy and the fabric of our society. We can’t cut our way out of this problem any more than we can dig ourselves out of a hole. More austerity would only keep us stuck in a downward spiral. The Chancellor should use next week’s Autumn Statement to invest in growth and to put a wages recovery at the top of the agenda.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said:

Nobody will be fooled by pie in the sky promises of tax cuts when David Cameron cannot tell us where the money is coming from. Even the Tories admit this is an unfunded commitment of over £7 billion, so how will they pay for it? Will they raise VAT on families and pensioners again?

Cameron has also announced the basic rate before we start paying tax would rise from £10,500 to £12,500. While a worker on £12,500 would save £500 a year, someone earning £50,000 would keep £1,900 extra.

Those earning up to £123,000 would be £484 richer. Someone on £12,500 would save £500 a year, while someone on up to £50,000 would keep £1,900 extra. And the £500 tax cut for basic rate earners will be almost wiped out by George Osborne’s raid on in-work benefits.

Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank says it was:

very difficult to see how the £7billion tax giveaway could be paid for.

We’re looking at promises of £7billion of tax giveaways in the context of an overall plan to get the deficit down but even without tax giveaways that requires pretty extraordinary levels of spending cuts such that most government departments will see their spending cut by a third by 2020.

How are you going to afford this? Even more dramatic spending cuts?

At the Tory Conference, Cameron promised to expand the National Citizen Service youth project for every teenager in the country, have the lowest rate of corporation tax of any major economy.

There was also a pledge to abolish youth unemployment by the end of the decade. But the Tory faithful gave the loudest applause for his pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act.

This is a truly terrifying pledge, because human rights were originally formulated as an international response to the atrocities of the 2nd World war, and to ensure that citizens are protected from abuses of their government.

A Labour Party analysis found the proposed tax break would hand David Cameron and other Cabinet ministers an extra £132 a year. But a family with two children with one earner on £25,000 a year would lose £495 by 2017-17 due to the benefits freeze announced by Mr Osborne.

The Tory plan is based solely on spending cuts, mainly directed at the working age poor. And the Conservative plan to raise the higher rate threshold to £50,000 means that  working-age poor people are to fund a tax cut that is four times greater for higher rate tax payers than for basic rate taxpayers.

Ed Balls said in response:

David Cameron’s speech showed no recognition that working people are £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories nor that the NHS is going backwards on their watch. The only concrete pledge we’ve had from the Tories this week is a promise to cut tax credits by hundreds of pounds for millions of hard working people while keeping a £3 billion tax cut for the richest one per cent.

TUC general Secretary Frances O’Grady added:

No amount of dressing up can hide the fact that the policies in this speech pass by those who need the most help to reward richer voters.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

What was missing in the PM’s speech was any recognition that independent projections show that child poverty rates are set to soar. We know that raising the personal tax allowance is an ineffective way of supporting low paid families.Independent analysis shows that just 15% of the £12 billion required to raise the PTA to £12,500 would go to working families in the lowest-income half of the population.

Many simply don’t earn enough to benefit from this policy, and those that do just see their benefits and tax credits withdrawn as their incomes rise.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies showed in their Green Budget publication this year that just 15% of the gains from increasing the personal allowance would benefit the poorest half of Britons, concluding:

There are better ways to help the low paid via the tax and benefit system.

Ex-Treasury official James Meadway,  now a senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, said Cameron’s changes were:

irresponsible, expensive gimmicks that scarcely affect the poorest workers.

They imply swingeing public sector cuts and mean handing over more cash to the already rich.

Ed Miliband will respond tomorrow (Monday), declaring that the Tories’ failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis has helped cost the Exchequer £116.5 billion – leading to higher borrowing and broken promises on the deficit. The price tag, equivalent to almost £4,000 for every taxpayer, is based on new research from the House of Commons Library being published by the Labour Party.

This shows that low pay and stagnant salaries, combined with soaring housing costs and the failure to tackle root causes of increased welfare bills, means that over the course of this Parliament:

  • Income tax receipts have fallen short of forecasts by more than £66 billion.
  • National Insurance Contributions are £25.5 billion lower than expected.
  • Spending on social security is £25 billion higher than planned [despite brutal cuts to lifeline benefits]

Mr Miliband is expected to say the test for George Osborne in this week’s Autumn Statement will be to set out a plan to build a recovery for working people – one which recognises the link between the living standards and Britain’s ability get the deficit down.

He is expected to say:

For a very long time, our country has worked well for a few people, but not for everyday people. “We live in a country where opportunities are too skewed to those at the top, where too many people work hard for little reward, where too many young people can’t find a job or apprenticeship worthy of their talents, and where families can’t afford to buy a home of their own.

For all the Government’s boasts about a belated economic recovery, there are millions of families still caught in the most prolonged cost-of-living crisis for a century.  For them this is a joy-less and pay-less recovery.

My priority as Prime Minister will be tackling that cost-of-living crisis so that hard work is properly rewarded again, so that our children can dream of a better future, so that our public services including the NHS are safe.

Building a recovery that works for everyday people is the real test of the Autumn Statement.

But that isn’t a different priority to tackling the deficit. Building a recovery that works for most people is an essential part of balancing the books.

The Government’s failure to build a recovery that works for every-day people and tackle the cost-of-living crisis isn’t just bad for every person affected, it also hampers our ability to pay down the deficit.

Britain’s public finances have been weakened by a Tory-led Government overseeing stagnant wages which keep tax revenues low.

Britain’s public finances have been weakened by Tory policies which focus on low paid, low skilled, insecure jobs – often part-time or temporary – because they do not raise as much revenue as the high skill, high wage opportunities we need to be creating.

And our public finances have been weakened by higher social security bills to subsidise low paid jobs and the chronic shortage of homes.   

The result has been David Cameron and George Osborne missing every single target they set themselves on clearing the deficit and balancing the books by the end of this parliament.

Their broken promises, their abject failure, are not an accident. They are the direct result of an outdated ideology which says all a Government has to do is look after a privileged few at the top and everyone else will follow.

That is why this Government has done a great job of squeezing the middle, but a bad job of squeezing the deficit.

The test this week for David Cameron and George Osborne is whether they recognise that Britain will only succeed and prosper for the long term by tackling the cost-of-living crisis and building a recovery which works for the many, not just for a few.

Or whether they will just offer more of the same old ideas that have failed them, failed everyday working people, and failed Britain over the past four years.

10001887913_f8b7888cbe_o

Thanks to Robert Livingstone for the brilliant memes

The link between Trade Unionism and equality

10553308_680322242037307_1558281906340939819_n

In an article I wrote earlier this year – Conservatism in a nutshell – I outlined some basic themes of New Right Conservative ideology. I said:

Conservatives don’t like social spending or welfare – our safety net. That’s because when you’re unemployed and desperate, companies can pay you whatever they feel like – which is inevitably next to nothing. You see, the Tories want you in a position to work for next to nothing or starve, so their business buddies can focus on feeding their profits, which is their only priority. Cheap-labour conservatives don’t like the minimum wage, or other improvements in wages and working conditions. These policies undo all of their efforts to keep you desperate. They don’t like European Union labour laws and directives either, for the same reason.

Conservatives prioritise handing out our money to their big business partners, no matter what it costs us as a society. For example, a spending breakdown reveals how NHS funding has flowed to private firms, much of that money has gone to companies with corrupt ties to the Tories, whilst health care is being rationed, care standards have plummeted, services are cut, and by the end of the next financial year, health service workers will have had their pay capped for six years, prompting fully justified strike action.

Following the tide of sleaze and corruption allegations, Cameron “dealt” with with parliamentary influence-peddling by introducing the Gagging Act, which is primarily a blatant attack on trade unions (which are the most democratic part of the political funding system) and Labour Party funding, giving the Tories powers to police union membership lists, to make strike action very difficult and to cut union spending in election campaigns.

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill is a calculated and partisan move to insulate Tory policies and records from public and political scrutiny, and to stifle democracy. And there are many other examples of this government removing mechanisms of transparency, accountability and safeguards to rights and democracy.

We have witnessed a dramatic increase in levels of economic inequality this past four years, reflected in the fact that income differences between top earners and those on the lowest wages are now higher than at any time since records began. The UK now ranks as one of the most unequal societies in the developed world, even more unequal than the US, home of the founding fathers of neoliberalism. Our current levels of inequality have far exceeded the point at which campaigners need any further proof to show how socially corrosive and life-limiting the subsequent deepening poverty is.

Despite the legislative framework of Labour’s Equality Act, passed in 2010, there is a growing gender-based pay gap, continued abuse of agency workers, the problem of the two-tier work force and the contracting out of public servicesStrong trade unions improve public services, too.

Speaking at a press conference on the first day of the 2014 TUC Congress, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The key message of this year’s congress is Britain needs a pay rise and I also expect many of the debates on the floor to focus on the importance of the coming general election for people at work.

Today, I want to highlight the threat posed by the Conservative Party’s promised manifesto proposals on strike ballots.

Because these proposals are designed to make unions weaker. And if unions become weaker, then the chances of people winning a pay rise, improving living standards and tackling inequality in Britain today will become a good deal harder.

The Conservative Party is not just proposing a few more bureaucratic obstacles that will make life a bit more difficult for trade unions.

Taken together, they would effectively ban strikes by the back door. And, on top of that, they would open up elected union leaders to increased surveillance by the state.

They are not just an attack on fundamental liberties. They will act to lower living standards for the majority of working people – whether or not they are union members.”

One half of the British population owns 9% of household wealth whilst the other half owns 91% of the wealth; and the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the poorest 20% of the entire population.

Conservatives are always obsessed with “economic growth”, but we know from history that economic expansion in itself does not promote equality: it is the types of employment, the rules and structure of the economy and policies that matter most. Conservative governments always create high levels of inequality.  Furthermore, they rarely manage to bring about the economic growth they promise. But recession due to reduced public spending is an inbuilt feature of neoliberalism, as we witnessed during the Thatcher era.

Inequality hinders growth in another important way: it fuels social conflict. However, social diversity has no negative impact on economic growth, despite what those on the blame-mongering Right would try and have us believe. It is economic policies that shape inequalities, not minority groups: they are the casualities of inequality not its creators.

Economic inequality is also about discrimination. Black and ethnic minority workers are disadvantaged in finding employment. Dismissal of pregnant workers is a widespread practice. Last year, the wage gap between men and women’s earnings increased and the progress previously made towards equal pay has been reversed.

Cameron’s government has mobilised resentment and fear on the part of relatively privileged social groups in relation to other subordinate or putatively threatening groups of politically defined Others – immigrants, unemployed people, disabled people, unionised workers, single mothers and so on.

Social inequalities and hierarchies are defended by Conservatives and secured in several ways. The defence of power, wealth and property, when threatened, tends to be micro-managed via rigid authoritarianism, through systems of mobilised prejudice and through free-market policies (the predictable effects of which are to transfer wealth upwards). 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.

The Office of Budgetary Responsibility forecasts that the Coalition are facing a £17BILLION blackhole after the low pay  that their own policies have strongly encouraged have caused a slump in tax payments to the treasury.

It is very clear that austerity is not an economic necessity, but rather, it is an ideological preference, used as a justification for “shrinking the State” whilst defending power, wealth and privilege.

The Coalition have introduced trade union laws which inhibit trade union recruitment, activity and collective bargaining. Employment rights are being removed, at a time when policies have reduced access to unfair dismissal protection and access to employment tribunals.

Trade unions are most effective when all workers are represented and therefore trade unionism encourages social inclusion. Collective bargaining and representational support will not work in the long term if some workers have substantially less to gain from the process than others.

For this reason, trade unions and the Labour Party have worked at eliminating sex, race and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. This has taken time, given how deeply ingrained inequalities have been in our society. We know that where trade unions are active, employers are more likely to have equal opportunities policies.

But for proper support of economic equality, trade unions need legal protection for their activities so they may operate freely and build effective social solidarity and promote egalitarianism.  Trade unions seek increased participation by working people in the decisions that influence their lives and a fairer distribution of the nation’s wealth. That is the antithesis of Conservatism.

Freedom to speak out against injustice, to campaign for economic equality and to work together through trade unions are underpinned by rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It’s no surprise that Cameron has pledged to exit the ECHR and to scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act.

To tackle economic inequality and build a fairer society, it is essential that trade-unions can operate freely and that collective bargaining is renewed. The impoverishment and exploitation of any one group of workers is a threat to the well-being and livelihood of everyone.

Building a future economy where the benefits of work and profit are shared requires legal reform in support of effective trade unions.

Lydia Hayes and Tonia Novitz from the Centre For Labour and Social Studies have written  the following proposals, designed to change public policy, so that trade unions are better able to represent their members, by  simplifying the statutory procedure for trade union recognition, and putting in place arrangements for sector-wide collective bargaining:

1. Introduce a legal framework through which trade unions can freely organise and engage in collective action to build economic equality.

2. Amend trade union recognition legislation so that all workers who choose to join a union can be represented in collective bargaining and other workplace matters.

3. Ensure the law provides for sectoral bargaining which can set minimum terms and conditions across an industry or a service sector.

4. Defend human rights which protect the functioning of trade unions (including rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association).

5. Give trade unions access to workers and workplaces, so that they can advise on the benefits of membership and collective bargaining.

6. Enable workers to have access to information about trade unions at their workplace so that they can make an informed choice and easily join a trade union if they want to.

None of this will happen during the current government’s term, because Conservatism is in diametric opposition to trade unionism, equality, human rights and egalitarianism.

Related
The Institute of employment Rights

10174840_680246428711555_4476316988383611981_n

Thanks to Robert Livingstone for the graphics.

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton