Saturday, 28 February 2015

Blacklisted Workers Strike Back!

ONE Monday morning in February 2009, four investigators from the Information Commissioner’s office knocked on a door in an alley in Droitwich, West Midlands. It was opened by 66-year-old Ian Kerr. David Clancy, head of investigations at the ICO, had spent months hunting for the Consulting Association, which had no nameplate above its green door and didn’t appear on official records. But this was the epicentre of a 30-year covert operation involving the country’s top construction firms and security services. Eventually the repercussions from this raid would be felt in boardrooms and parliaments around the world

For more go to http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/27/on-the-blacklist-building-firms-secret-information-on-workers

Friday, 27 February 2015

Danzcuk M.P. & Cancer in the Community

IN tomorrow's Rochdale Observer Les May has a letter drawing attention to Simon Danzcuk's hypocritical support for the sale of tobacco, and comparing it with the chapter in Danzcuk's book lampooning  Cyril Smith for championing a local asbestos  company in the 1970s and 80s.  Mr. Danzcuk accepted hospitality to the value of £1,389 from Japanese Tobacco PLC in August 2011, after he had voted against the first reading of Alex Cunningham's Private Member's Bill banning smoking in cars carrying children in June 2011. 

In the Rochdale Observer, Les May writes:
'... I have no problem with an M.P. who votes according to his or her conscience, indeed I would expect no less.  But to accept hospitality to the value of £1,389 from a tobacco company in August of that year (2011), then in 2014 to co-author a book which devotes 25 pages to attacking Cyril Smith for his support of an asbestos company and a month after to accept hospitality to the value of £1,404 from the same company, I consider to be rank hypocrisy.'

Despite this evidence Mr. Danzcuk, the M.P. for Rochdale, told the Rochdale Observer on the 21st, February 2015, that 'he would not allow such hospitality to sway his voting and that he had supported the ban on smoking in cars  with children'.  He also added:  'that he takes a 'pragmatic' view on smoking as it is a 'pleasure that has been demonised in recent years'. 

Nor will he let it get in the way of his trips the Oval or the Chelsea Flower Show with Mrs. Danzcuk.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

PCS Strike at ICO

Staff at the Information Commissioner’s Office are to hold a three day strike over pay
The strike on 26 and 27 February and 2 March follows a two day strike on 3 and 4 February which was solidly supported by around 95% of members and disrupted the ICO’s helpline, casework services and external speaking engagements. Around 20 PCS members staffed picket lines at the ICO’s main office in Wilmslow on both days.

PCS members are striking to demand fair pay for all staff after three senior executives were awarded average increases of 11%. Pay rates for the rest of staff remain significantly lower than those for equivalent jobs in the civil service and at other regulators, leading to problems with recruitment and retention.

ICO management are refusing to improve a pay offer and have instead taken the confrontational step of issuing individual letters to staff threatening that the offer may be withdrawn. A majority of staff have refused to agree the changes and are demanding ICO management return to negotiations to reach a collective agreement with PCS.

PCS members have been left with no option but to strike again. The strike will disrupt the ICO’s Data Protection Practitioner (DPP) conference in Manchester on 2 March, which will be attended by around 750 delegates. PCS will lobby delegates on the day of the conference to highlight the ICO’s low pay problem.

Branch secretary Paddy Dillon said: “PCS members at the ICO are determined to demand fair pay for all staff, not just the most highly paid executives. They have made it absolutely clear that they want ICO management to reach a collective agreement with their union rather than take the divisive step of issuing individual letters.”
Messages of support can be sent to icobranchpcs@gmail.com
Not a PCS member? Join today for protection at work.

'Scuttlers' at the Manchester Royal Exchange

Chris Draper’s latest theatre review

 IF this show had been written, produced and performed by school students as a GCSE drama project they’d be well advised to switch subjects for it was dire in almost every aspect. The instant we entered the auditorium, long before the play commenced, our ears were assailed by loud, unpleasant electronic noises employed to create an edgy atmosphere.  Our discomfiture continued and when a leading character complained of earache we naturally identified the real cause long before the playwright proffered her own ludicrously metaphorical explanation – a butterfly in the lughole!   

In Northern Voices 10, Derek Pattison’s account of the lives of street gangs of Victorian Manchester more skilfully weaves together the atmosphere and activities of the Scuttlers than this two hour travesty.  To be fair the lads and lassies of the cast did their best with an irredeemable script populated by cardboard characters, backed by an annoying, atonal, clichéd sound score, and choreographed together with tiresome, repetitive movements of characters crossing and re-crossing the stage to no obvious effect but invariably accompanied by a surfeit of shouting.   

'This is the thrilling story of young people navigating a life without respect…that resonates with remarkable clarity 150 years on' claims the show’s publicity but it isn’t thrilling and there is no resonance. The production never gets beneath the skin of the Scuttlers and the play cares little for characterisation, empathy or analysis.  It amounts to no more than a superficial, voyeuristic, squint at the lower orders. A Jeremy Kyle show for Guardian readers at thirty quid a seat, £4.10 a pint, seventy quid for an artfully printed headscarf and £150 for a model dog in a duffel coat (all on offer at the Exchange).  

After filmmaker Shane Meadows tackled the far trickier topic of National Front gang-violence with such consummate skill in, 'This is England', it’s disappointing a decade later to find so little achieved here.  If the real Scuttlers turn up one night at the Exchange they will be seriously aggrieved.   

(Scuttlers by Rona Munrow, is in currently receiving its 'World Premier' at Manchester’ Royal Exchange Theatre, from 5th February to 7th March 2015)

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Pressure to penalise claimants

FRESH evidence that job centre managers routinely put pressure on staff to impose financial penalties on benefit claimants has been submitted to the Commons work and pensions select committee inquiry into sanctions.

Documents produced by the PCS union at the committee’s request present a series of emails from Job Centre Plus managers which the union says show that staff who fail to instigate or approve enough sanctions are subject to performance reviews.

It says the emails reveal how staff are pressurised to meet sanctions targets, seemingly regardless of whether the penalty is appropriate. Staff who do not meet “expectations” are given a “must improve” rating by managers and in some cases are denied performance-based pay rises, it says.

A sanction involves the stopping of claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks – equivalent to almost £300 – as a penalty for breaching benefit rules and conditions, typically failure to look for work or attend jobcentre appointments.

The PCS disputes the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) claim that sanctions targets do not exist and that sanctions are only imposed as a “last resort”.

The Union states:
This is a Kafka-esque situation in which the department denies any targets as it penalises its own staff for not meeting these targets
The PCS says that in one region individual job centres were given colour ratings of red (bad) or green (good) depending on whether they had met targets to sanction job seekers, incapacity benefit claimants, and recipients of income support.

Staff attending a regional briefing last month at which the ratings were unveiled were told that “off-flows” (the removal of claimants from the unemployment register) would help deliver savings to the welfare budget.
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ACCORDING to the union, staff were told the internal publication of the ratings helped offices “see how their performance translates into monetary savings for the country”.

Other emails purport to show how staff are encouraged to use the “hassle factor” to “frustrate claimants off benefits” by imposing increasingly onerous claimant commitments on customers - typically, stringent targets for job searches or the imposition of daily signing-on requirements.
In one email a Job centre manager queries why only two claimants failed to meet their commitments from the 916 interviewed that month, and suggests tighter conditions must be imposed if official sanctions level expectations are to be met.

The employment minister Esther McVey is likely to be asked about the allegations when she appears before the select committee on Wednesday morning.

The PCS evidence follows separate written submissions to the committee by two former jobcentre employees who alleged that officials set up “hit squads” to target benefit claimants for sanctions and put pressure on them to sign off the dole.

Latest official figures show that 918,000 claimants were sanctioned between April 2013 and March 2014 for apparently breaching benefits rules. Sanctions rates have risen sharply since 2010, and soared since tighter conditions were introduced in Autumn 2012.

Job centre staff who fail to make sufficient sanctions referrals are placed on Performance Improvement Plans, which can result in them losing out on annual pay awards, the union claims.
It says it has been inundated by staff complaining about the pressure to sanction claimants and meet sanctions targets, which it says are
Skewing the role of our members in jobcentres and polluting the relationship between jobcentre advisors and claimants
A spokesman for the DWP said there was “nothing new” in the claims. He added:
In return for their benefits, claimants are asked to do everything they can to look for work, and more than 70 per cent say they are more likely to follow the rules if they know they risk having their benefits stopped. 
With the record number of vacancies, it’s right that claimants are asked whether they are doing enough to find a job. There are no targets for sanctions.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Construction News report: Crossrail Death

A Slovakian engineer who was killed working on Crossrail may have been vulnerable because of his limited English and fellow workers’ impatience, a coroner heard today.
René Tkacik was was killed while spraying concrete 32ft below Fisher Street, Holborn, for the Bam Ferrovial Kier joint venture on last year.

At an inquest into his death at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, Mr Tkacik’s widow Renata described her husband as a 'highly experienced' sprayer who was left unsure what to do because of his 'rudimentary' English.  She claimed Mr Tkacik took a dictionary to work but colleagues were rude to him because of communication problems.  Mrs Tkacik said her husband had a 'difficult living condition' in the accommodation provided for him by his employers.

'He didn’t sleep properly and was constantly tired,' she told the court and 'his English was rudimentary and he complained to me that when he went to work he didn’t know what to do.  He always had a dictionary with him, but even that was not enough.'

She added that Mr Tkacik’s colleagues had little time for him because of his limited English, and were often 'rude'.

Demonstrators from trade unions Unite, Ucatt and GMB protested outside the court this morning, calling for the unionisation of the £15bn Crossrail project.  Placards displayed outside the court read 'No more site deaths' and 'People before profit'.  Mr Tkacik was crushed to death by a concrete slab while working in the tunnel in the early hours of 7 March 2014.

The 44-year-old was pronounced dead at 6.14am by doctors who took six minutes to get to him in the tunnel.

Mr Tkacik was left with “devastating injuries entirely incompatible with life,” and would have died instantaneously, the court heard.

His death was recorded as blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

Mrs Tkacik described her husband as a teetotaller with an eye for detail.  A toxicology report following his death showed no signs of alcohol, caffeine, or drugs in Mr Tkacik’s system.

Mrs Tkacik said he was a ‘highly qualified’ sprayer and blaster who had worked on various jobs, including tunnelling work.

When Mr Tkacik first joined Crossrail as a sprayer he passed four examinations, all set in English.
A Crossrail spokesperson said:
'Everyone who works on Crossrail was affected by this terrible incident.  Our thoughts and sympathies are with RenéTkacik’s family and colleagues.  Crossrail has a good safety record and sets the most stringent contractor safety requirements in the industry. Safety has always been, and continues to be, the number one value for Crossrail and critical to the success of the programme.  There is nothing so important on Crossrail that it cannot be done safely. This terrible incident only increased that resolve.'

Monday, 23 February 2015

ONE DEATH IS TOO MANY

CONSTRUCTION SAFETY CAMPAIGN LONDON HAZARDS CENTRE
A REPORT COMMISSIONED IN JULY 2009 entitled “ONE DEATH IS TOO MANY” was an inquiry into the underlying causes of construction fatal accidents. 
The report’s Executive Summary said – There is no sense of shock at the regular toll of fatalities in the industry. We should aim to raise the profile of these tragedies so that a construction fatality becomes socially unacceptable.  
What has happened since? Deaths are still treated as normal everyday events.  
 According to Baroness Donaghy’s report the HSE is vitally important in ensuring BOTH compliance and culture change.  Instead of allocating resources to continue to do that work, the HSE budget has been cut by some 38% and Safety regulations have been deregulated. At the Tory party conference David Cameron stated that he believes Health and Safety is a burden on industry.   We disagree. SAFETY LAWS ARE THERE TO SAVE LIVES! 
There is a real fear of going back to the bad old days, which actually were  not so long ago, when 3 Construction workers were killed every week. It has been the work of Safety Campaigners who have fought long and hard to bring these numbers down. WE SAY SAFETY BEFORE PROFITS. 
In 2009 it was revealed that the major construction companies have been blacklisting thousands of construction workers who had dared to speak out over safety issues on sites. Blacklisting has gone on for decades - denying workers and their families the opportunity of work, for some for many years, causing great hardship, resulting in lives being ruined, homes lost and families split up.  
Frank Morris, an electrician on Crossrail, was removed for raising safety concerns in 2012. Following a yearlong campaign Frank was reinstated in 2013. 
Rene Tkacik was fatally injured on 7th March 2014 when he was hit by a section of freshly applied Shotcrete. There have been numerous concerns raised over safety on Crossrail which have been ignored including concerns about Shotcrete. Following Rene’s death a whistleblower compiled a list of accidents and near misses he approached BBMV and Crossrail seeking assurances that steps be taken to avoid any further injuries and deaths, they failed to action his concerns.  He also notified the HSE. 
No one expects that when they go to work they will be killed. 
John McDonnell MP has stated that the bullying management style is jeopardising health and safety. He called for urgent action from the Government, in a letter dated May 2014. 
Cutting safety saves money! That’s not acceptable! It is estimated that over 70% of accidents and deaths are preventable. We are outside today because we care.  We are paying our respects to the family of Rene Tkacik and letting everyone know that CONSTRUCTION FATALITIES ARE UNACCEPTABLE.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Support day of action for unemployed workers activist Tony Cox!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from Boycott Workfare:

"Take part in a day of action at job centres Britain-wide, 25 February 2015.
Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.

On 29 January Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D’s UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.

The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre.

The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirmclaimants’ right to representation. The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”

The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.
Visit your local Jobcentre on 25th February with banners and placards and distribute leaflets to claimants on Tony’s case and the right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews. Download a leaflet you can use here.
  • Send a message of support to admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net
  • Complain to Noel Shanahan, Director General Operations DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street London SW1H 9NA
  • Sign the petition
  • There will be a picket of the Forfar court before the hearing at 10am on 25 February, by activists from Dundee, Tayside and area – for details contact admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net
  • There will be two solidarity actions in London:
    * 09.45-10.45am, outside Kilburn Jobcentre with Kilburn Unemployed Workers
    * 3pm, DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street London SW1H 9NA (Nearest tube St James’ Park or Westminster) with Boycott Workfare
  • See a full list of actions in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Dundee and more here."
Please add the support of your group/organisation: email admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net & ecap@lists.riseup.net
And don’t forget Disabled People Against Cut’s Day of Action the following week on 2 March!

Friday, 20 February 2015

George Julian Harney: Radical Chartist

Hegel vs Wittgenstein's approach 

DAVID Goodway gave a talk on Saturday the 7th, February 2014, at the Peoples' History Museum on George Julian Harney, one of the leading Chartists.  He was introducing the book that he edited and published in 2014, and was entitled 'The Chartists Were Right' on Mr. Harney's contributions to the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, which is the first selection of Harney's journalism to be published.  Mr. Goodway taught sociology, history and Victorian studies to mainly adult students at the University of Leeds.  His first book had been London Chartism, 1838-1848 (1982).  Elsewhere Mr. Goodway has written mostly on anarchism and libertarian socialism.

David Goodway gave a brief history of Chartism and the general background of the times mentioning the Newport uprising, as well as other attempted uprisings in Dewsbury and Sheffield, and later in Manchester and Birmingham; the 1832 strike in Stalybridge; the murder of a policeman in Ashton-under-Lyne in 1848.  He insisted that there had been no link or continuity with the labour movement and that ultimately Chartism had been replaced by trade unionism.  He posed the question as to why Chartism failed after some 50 years of agitation.  He didn't seem to answer this precisely, but pointed out that the demand for the Charter was for more specific reasons to do with the New Poor Law, and also concerns about the factory system and it had been confronted by an alliance of the propertied classes. 

The main intellectual influence on Harney was the Irishman Bronterre O'Brien, the editor the Poor Man's Guardian, who was an enthusiast for the French Revolution identifying with Robespierre.  Harney was more drawn to Marat and often signed himself 'L'Ami du Peuple' (Friend of the People).  In April 1839, he wrote for the London Democrat, but during his travels in the north of England he was seen as one of the foremost spokesmen of physical-force Chartism, and in May 1839, soon after the Convention moved to Birmingham, a warrant was issued for his arrest for a seditious speech he was reputed to have made there.  He was arrested at Bedlington in July, and held for a time at Warwick Gaol, but in April 1840 the case was dropped, because his speech had not been properly witnessed.    

He was appointed Northern Star correspondent for Sheffield and later became its sub-editor in July 1843 when O'Connor,  its proprietor, dismissed the Rev. William Hill and replaced him with Joshua Hobson.  Hobson started to give Harney a free hand.  By the time he was formally appointed editor in October 1845 Harney had already taken-over as editor in practice.  From then on through the 1850s his influence was at its height as although O'Conner was the proprietor of the Northern Star, to begin with he gave Harney editorial independence.   

In the 1840s, the Northern Star was based in Leeds, and Friedrich Engels had visited there in 1843 when he met Harney and they became lifelong friends,  Engels was to write:
'We kept in touch with the revolutionary section of the English Chartists through Julian Harney, the editor of the movement's central organ, the Northern Star, to which I was a contributor.'

Engels thought Harney should push himself into the Chartist leadership over O'Connor but Harney disagreed responding:
'A popular leader should be possessed of magnificent bodily appearance, an iron frame, eloquence, or at least a ready fluency of tongue.  I have none of these.  O'C. has them all – at least in degree. ...'

Then very perceptively Harney argued that the qualities that Engels claimed for Harney were, in fact, in English terms defects:
'...the very qualities you (Engels) give me the credit of possessing, and which you emphatically sum up in the sentence “You are the only Englishman who is really free of all prejudices that distinguish the Englishman from the Continental man” are sufficient of themselves to prevent my being a leader.' 

Goodway writes that 'Harney, a Londoner and indeed a proletarian, was then insufficiently English in outlook, whereas O'Connor, who belonged to the Irish gentry, exerted a mesmeric appeal on the English working class, many whom were, of course, either Irish-born or of Irish origin.' 

Harney fell out with Marx and Engels over the issue of social inclusiveness which Harney proclaimed:  'I stay not to enquire whether they were of the aristocratic [sic], bourgeoisie, or the proletariat.  Enough for me that they were men of earnest convictions, which they maintained through every kind of adversity, including bonds, exile, and to death.' 

Essentially Marx and Engels were Hegelians or some may say 'monomaniacs', while Harney's writings in his publications were as Mr. Goodway says: 'vigorously polymathic, ranging across literature, contemporary politics and world history of all periods.'   

Wittgenstein wrote:
'Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same...  Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different.' 

George Julian Harney in his editorship of the Northern Star was not engaged in producing a mono-maniac tract for Marxists, hence David Goodway was able to say that  the Northern Star sold well and was 'not boring' and was definitely 'not a sectarian paper'.  Basically Harney, according to Mr. Goodway, was all for inclusiveness while 'Marx and Engels couldn't stomach that'.  Mr. Goodway also insisted that the Chartists were in no way 'Socialists' and that no direct line could be drawn between the Chartist movement and the formation of the Labour Party at the end of the 19th Century.  O'Connor believed in peasant proprietors, according to Goodway; and when I asked if this meant he was more in the tradition of the Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mr Goodway agreed with me on this. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ernest Rodker on Radical Action

Commonweal Lecture 2015

VETERAN activist and cabinet-maker, Ernest Rodker, addressed the problems and opportunities for those of us who regarded ourselves as radicals in the last half of the 20th century, last Tuesday night, at Bradford University.  It was pointed out that this Commonweal lecture was being held on the precise anniversary on the 17th, February 1958, of a meeting of CND which ultimately resulted in Cannon Collins calling on those present to go down to Downing Street to protest against, what was then known as 'the Bomb'.   Mike 'Randle', who was introducing the talk by Ernest described how while he was outside Number 10, he saw Ernest on the ground being beaten by the police and was told to 'Shut up!', when he questioned their conduct.

Later, in 1961, Mike and Ernest renewed their friendship when they spent time in prison together.  By that time Cannon Collins, who had initiated the provocative Downing Street protest in 1958, was to oppose Bertrand Russell's proposals for civil disobedience and direct action which had led to the formation of the Committee of 100.   

Ernest used graphic images of news reports and pictures to show events and historic posters of the time by people like the poster-designer Robin Field.  This continued later when he came to deal with  the 'Stop the 70s Tour' of the South African rugby and cricket teams.  At that time sport became an issue of protest in a way it hadn't previously, except perhaps for the rare case of suffragettes before the First World War.   Despite all the challenges the Labour Government's Home Secretary, James Callaghan, assured us that 'the tour is going to go ahead!'   

The Springboks arrived in November 1969 and stayed in the Park Lane Hotel, and the tour ended following protests in February 1970.  At the time of the cricket tour John Arlott, the then famous cricket commentator, announced that he would not cover the tour, and on the 22nd, May the tour was cancelled.

Ernest mentioned that had at the time,  had contact with Peter Hain and his family.  Peter Hain was later to write of the protests:
'I, along with many others, was outraged at their moral cowardice and hypocrisy, and helped form the Stop The Seventy Tour (STST) campaign to organise non-violent direct action protests against the tour.  These initially focused on country wide demonstrations against 25 matches of a South African rugby tour to Britain in the winter of 1969-70.  The campaign against the racism of South African sport took off with mass protests that quickly escalated to become a national and international controversy.  Eventually the pressure caused the MCC to cancel the cricket tour - by far the biggest victory the anti-apartheid movement had achieved. Australia and New Zealand soon followed suit in rugby as well as cricket, and white South Africa was expelled from the Olympics. ' 

On the 1st, April 1990, the Poll Tax was launched by the Thatcher government, initially in Scotland, where about 1 million refused to pay the tax.  This was merely the springboard to what was to happen on its introduction in England, where ultimately a riot ensured in London as well as mass refusals to pay the tax.  The consequences of this were that Margaret Thatcher left office in 1991, and John Major proclaimed:  'The Poll Tax is un-collectable!'   

Ernest described a  local campaign to save from closure the local school of Chestnut Grove in Balham as part of a series of school closures.   This was successful, as for the most part was his part in the scheme pursued between 1971 and 1981 to convert Dormobiles into vehicles to smuggle literature and duplicators into Czechoslovakia, which functioned until they got rumbled in 1981.  Less successful was Ernest's role in the campaign against pit closures and open-cast mining, culminated in digging holes looking for coal protests on Michael Heseltine's paddock.  

Barnet Care Worker's Strike

Dear Supporter
I want to take the opportunity to update you on the dates of strike action by our Your Choice Barnet care workers.
The action will be takenon 24 & 25 February in the middle of the Fair Pay fortnight (16 Feb-1 March 2015) which is highlighting around Britain's cost of living crisis.
As you know that our members had a 9.5% pay cut imposed from 1 April last year add to that the fact that prices have risen by just under 20. Before the 9.5% pay cut the impact on our members pay has seen around £3,400 stripped from the value of their wages.
This will make a total of 8 days of strike action since the dispute began. This is in a bid to reverse the harsh 9.5% pay cut imposed on them by their employer.
YCB has not met with UNISON as they have indicated they have nothing new to offer. Barnet Council has failed to become involved in a positive way at all. The Council has clearly been giving preferential treatment to its private contractors with the news of Capita receiving some£110million on top of its contract in order to keep the contract working. If YCB were to receive this, it would carry on producing a service to the residents on the scale it does for the next 18 years with no pay cut to staff!
At the same time our members are continuing to deliver a quality service to adults with disabilities, often with less staff and an increase in agency workers.
Our Commissioning Council continues to spend millions on consultants to help deliver its privatisation programme which are clearly designed to undermine our members pensions, pay and terms & conditions,
In the past two weeks I have been ashamed to see how our Council is determined to socially cleanse ordinary working people out of our borough.
I dare you not to scream at the screen when you listen to 86 year old resident facing compulsory order.
Over the week I have watched in horror as residents were being dragged out of their homes in Sweets Way and are now protesting outside the Housing offices
The 9.5% pay cut was not the only attack on our members there had already been other attacks to unsocial hours and a third of the workforce were made redundant.
The 9.5% was the final straw as members can already see the impact of a two tier workforce where staff doing the same work are being paid less money.
Our members are determined that they will not be ignored. They know the Tories could intervene to help resolve this dispute which is why they agreed the next round of strike action.
I hope you are all agree that the stakes for our care workers are high and as with the CARE UK dispute UNISON will continue to back our members fight to defend our members’ claim every step of the way.
Picket line information
1. Flower Lane Day Centre
41 Flower Lane
Barnet
London NW7 2JN
2. Rosa Morrison Day Centre
83 Gloucester Road
Totteridge
Barnet
London EN5 1NA
The start times are 7.30am to 12noon
Best wishes
John Burgess
Branch Secretary.
Barnet UNISON
0208 359 2088
Barnet UNISON “Watch it & Share it”
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING WEDNESDAY 4 MARCH, FROM 4 PM

Monday, 16 February 2015

Man arrested at Jobcentre for representing vulnerable jobseeker!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from Boycott Workfare:

"SOLIDARITY WITH UNEMPLOYED ACTIVIST ARRESTED FOR REPRESENTING A JOBSEEKER
TAKE PART IN A DAY OF ACTION AT JOBCENTRES BRITAIN-WIDE 25 FEBRUARY 2015
Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.
As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.

On 29 January Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D’s UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.

The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre.
The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirm claimants’ right to representation. The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”

The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.
Visit your local Jobcentre on 25th February with banners and placards and distribute leaflets to claimants on Tony’s case and the right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews."
Please add the support of your group/organisation: email admin@scottishunemployedworkers.netecap@lists.riseup.net
And don’t forget Disabled People Against Cut’s Day of Action the following week on 2 March!

Blacklist Support Group Statement:

1. BLACKLIST Support Group statement:
It is six years since the construction industry blacklist was discovered. Since then there have been new laws introduced, Select Committee investigations and a historic 12 months industrial dispute on Crossrail to reinstate a blacklisted union activist. The involvement of the police and security services in blacklisting of union activists is now proven beyond doubt and has been raised in parliament by John McDonnell MP.
The High Court (Fri 13 Feb) and the Court of Appeal (4-5 Feb) hearings on blacklisting in the past week have seen the glacially slow British legal system inching nearer to a conclusion.
Yet in this week has also seen the release of a report about victimisation and blacklisting of whistleblowers in the NHS and the sacking of another union activist on Crossrail who dared to raise concerns about safety issues on the site. The coroners hearing into the death of Rene Tkacik, killed on the Crossrail project starts next week.
Far from being a thing of the past, blacklisting is endemic across British industry, from the NHS, banking, hotels, offshore oil & gas and of course construction. The fight is ongoing wherever working people are prepared to take a stand against corporate greed. Yet David Cameron, Teresa May and Vince Cable have refused to take actio. The need for a fully independent public inquiry into the national scandal has never been greater.
 
2. Very positive outcome in High Court blacklisting group litigation on Friday 13th Feb.
Lord Justice Supperstone told the hearing that the full trial will take place around Easter 2016.
Currently 385 claimants against 37 companies. There are another 187 claims waiting to be submitted - this number is likely to rise even more. The final cut off date for anyone blacklisted to be added to the litigation is 2nd November 2015. The average claim for loss of earnings is currently £110,000 per claimant. This is without any potential damages for defamation, hurt to feelings or compensation for human rights violations that claimants may receive.
The lawyers are now drawing up a list of 25 potential test cases. If both sides cannot agree the names, the judge will determine which cases will be heard.
 
The judge commented that the lawyers representing the claimants have been speaking with one voice but the employers were divided (and should sort their act out).
 
The judge made a number of orders about the dates that paperwork needed to be submitted to the court.
 
The legal costs in the case by December 2014 had already reached in excess of £10 million. 
The next hearing will be 14th May.
The Blacklist Support Group wish to put on record our admiration for the colossal amount of work being carried out by the lawyers involved in this groundbreaking legal case.
3. Another worker sacked on Crossrail for raising safety concerns. Message from Construction Rank & File: 
Rank & File Protest
7:30am Monday 16th February
Hanover square
meet: Oxford Street tube
A unite activist was sacked from the crossrail project at Bond Street today. The electrician was sacked for raising legimate health and safety concerns. The contractor is Skanska / Costain joint venture and he was working for VGC through an agency. VGC are non JIB company and non compliant (JIB is the national agreement for electrical contracting which is supposed to apply on the Crossrail project).
Our demands are simple - reinstate the sacked worker and for VGC to be removed fron the project. Yet again Crossrail management seem to be oblivious to the workers health and safety concerns this has to stop. The inquest into the death of Rene Tkacik who was killed on Crossrail starts at St Pancras Coroners Court on Monday 23rd February.
Unite were in negotiations today but nothing came off it. We must support our sacked brother. 
Please support - spread the word on social media and to all your contacts. This will be the first of many actions if the dispute is not resolved quickly.
4. Report published about victimisation and blacklisting of NHS whistleblowers by Sir Robert Francis.

5. Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists - by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberalin published by New Internationalist in March.
6. Blacklist Support Group AGM
Saturday 7th March 2015
Glasgow

New York Times Journalist Drops Dead

E-mail from Tony Gosling:
NEW York Times's columnist David Carr drops dead just hours after interviewing Edward Snowden Posted on February 13, 2015 by Shepard Ambellas http://www.dcclothesline.com/2015/02/13/nyt-columnist-david-carr-drops-dead-just-hours-interviewing-edward-snowden/

SCREENCAPTURE VIA NEW YORK TIMES CREDENTIALED COLUMNIST’S DEATH MAKES WAVES IN NEWS AND CONSPIRACY COMMUNITIES http://www.911forum.org.uk/board/viewtopic.php?p=169436#169436
 
NEW YORK (INTELLIHUB) — David Carr, 58, a columnist for the New York Times, fell down dead in his office Thursday just after interviewing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in a Times Talks episode which was captured on video via Google Hangouts. Before Carr’s death he was said to have drawn out candid conversation with the whistleblower Snowden about the release of secret documents and also touched on the new film 'Citizenfour'.
 
During the interview Snowden gave information to Carr about a secret NSA encryption program. Moments later a clip of Citizenfour was also shown in which Snowden, who sitting in bed at a hotel room at the time, was being interviewed by a journalist as fire alarms kept going off, promptly alerting Snowden to unplug his room phone. Carr joined the New York Times in 2002 where his column 'Media Equation' was typically posted in the Monday business edition. Carr’s coworkers were shocked of his death and said that he was 'special', a 'gifted'journalist with lots of 'talent'. Carr also had a book published in 2008, which he worked on for three years, titled The Night of the Gun which talked about his previous struggles with cocaine and how he eventually became a good father to his daughters and a columnist for the Times. According to Tom McElroy with the AP, Carr was even teaching a 'Boston University class that explored the creative business models to support digital journalism' as he was quite the busy guy.  Carr’s death will now likely be a hot topic amongst the conspiracy community as Snowden was also responsible for leaking sensitive information about at least one 'flying saucer' or UFO incident. Watch Carr’s final interview here: http://new.livestream.com/nytimes/events/3800646/videos/76929642
 
Other Sources: New York Times media columnist David Carr dies at age 58 — AP David Carr, Times Critic and Champion of Media, Dies at 58 — New York Times Rieder: David Carr death latest shocker for journalism — USA Today David Carr’s Outsize Times Legacy — The Daily Beast +44 (0)7786 952037 http://rt.com/op-edge/authors/tony-gosling/ http://cryptome.org/2014/06/video-report-axed-2.htm www.thisweek.org.uk
www.dialectradio.co.uk Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27 www.actorsandartistsfor911truth.org www.mediafor911truth.org www.pilotsfor911truth.org
www.rl911truth.org www.stj911.org www.l911t.com www.v911t.org

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chris Draper replies to his critics

DEAR N.V.,

Thanks for publishing, WHO KILLED FREEDOM?

I leave readers to judge the accuracy of my analysis for themselves but it seems polite to respond to a couple of correspondents who appear aggrieved.

Matthew Black makes 3 claims:

* He is a not a member of the Anarchist federation (AF) *  Illness was the deciding factor in his decision to leave Freedom *  Matthew insists that having agreed to publish an account of Anarchist Federation (AF) violence on a specified date it was entirely his own decision to go back on his written promise and suppress all mention of the incident.  He was not 'overruled', 'it was my decision'.   As I did not claim Matthew was a member of AF I readily accept his first point.  On the second point, I know he had pneumonia and this may have been an overriding factor in his resignation but his discomfort could only have been exacerbated by his role in the suppression of 'The Burnley Declaration'.

This document described and denounced the violent attacks launched by AF thugs upon two elderly anarchists, it is an important statement organised by Barry Woodling and signed by 150 concerned individuals. In December 2012 Matthew emailed its organisers to say, 'I am just letting you know that your statement will be appearing in the Jan issue of the paper (my emphasis)…I have contacted the Anarchist Federation and asked them whether they would like to write a response to your statement.'  Whether Matthew changed his mind or had it changed for him readers can judge for themselves for on 10th January 2013 his fellow collective member, Donald Rooum emailed (the organisers) to say:

'Poor Matthew. Just been appointed editor of Freedom, and already faced with this controversy. He circulated the collective asking for views on whether your letter should appear and got a nasty letter from Nick Heath saying if your letter was published, he would withdraw co-operation, including the offer of a book… Regardless of Nick’s threats, I ask you to withdraw your letter.'

Precisely how and why Matthew went from a promise to publish to colluding with suppression requires psychological determination rather than the historical explanation I offer but common sense suggests some link between the activities of the collective and Matthew’s volte-face.  In any event, as I make clear in my original essay Matthew was only put in at the end, after the key players had decided the paper was no longer their prime concern.  Any difference of emphasis between my interpretation and Matthew’s leaves my original account unaffected, except to belatedly note Donald Rooum’s role in trying to persuade those promised publication to perform an act of self-censorship and effectively collude with their own oppression.  In contrast to Matthew’s modest, reasoned submission Simon Saunders’ response is an ill-considered farrago of lies and unsupported assertions. Although it’s not always clear what point Saunders is trying to make I’ll endeavour to answer each in turn; * 'quotes' - Where possible I’ve quoted from easily accessible sources so readers can judge for themselves whether my selections are a fair representation.
* 'A habit of slinging emails at random people I’ve never met' - This is a lie and a spectacularly inept one at that for I am well known as someone who rarely and reluctantly communicates by email and never 'sling emails at random people'. * 'financing' – In the current radical argot, 'Check your privilege' Simon!

Unlike Saunders I come from a working class background; born in Warrington, cleaner/dinner lady/factory worker mum: Co-op stable boy/railway clerk dad: council house and the rest of it and know how difficult it is in the real world to talk to ordinary people about anarchist ideas. People like me don’t take to being lectured on class by posh boys from privileged backgrounds. * 'gaming' – I believe Simon’s addiction to computer gaming shapes his absurdly simplistic politics. This point runs in to the next, in that his avatar ('Rob Ray') operates as an anarchist whilst Simon Saunders inhabits the real world.

* 'name' - If our politics are to mean anything we must be our real selves in the struggle. Throughout my forty-year working life I was always “out” as an anarchist and despite being told by an employer that I was blacklisted I refused to hide my identity or politics. I would encourage all anarchists to come out of the closet and openly argue for anarchism. Simon Saunders was involuntarily outed because he colluded in the attempted cover-up of AF violence. Simon’s petulant assertion that 'no-one wants to work with you anymore' is an absurd claim more reminiscent of a playground taunt than serious political debate.

* 'readership' – In 2014, 'A Statement from the Freedom Collective' announced…the number of paying subscribers has fallen to 225. As a result annual losses now amount to £3,500 an unsustainable level for our shoestring budget”, yet Saunders claims, “Readership of the paper remained broadly stable from the time Vernon died (2001) until it closed”. If the position was stable as Saunders now claims then its financial stability remained unaltered, if as the collective announced on closure the number of subscribers had fallen to an unsustainable level then Saunders is once again indulging in falsehood.

Further evidence is supplied by Richard Griffin who Saunders in 2006 described as, 'among the best stalwarts…always reliable'. Griffin records that whilst he was at Freedom, 'from memory we sent out 600 or so'. In 2014 Griffin published an article recording the death of Freedom in which he stated, 'Falling subscribers and fewer volunteers means the paper made an annual £2,500 loss in the end'. Such glaring discrepancies are alone sufficient grounds to prompt fair-minded observers to question the un-accidental death of an anarchist newspaper.

* 'killed it' – Saunders claims that because the paper survived for years after he finished editing, 'neither Toby nor I killed it.'  He misunderstands; I do not accuse Toby or Simon of stabbing the paper to death. I claim that between the years 2001 to 2014 Donald Rooum, Toby Crowe, Simon Saunders and Dean Talent sometimes acting jointly but more often individually effectively poisoned Freedom. It was a slow lingering death, sapping the vitality and integrity out of the institution. For more than a decade several of the aforementioned continued to play a more or less active role until in 2014 Simon Saunders, Donald Rooum and ten others finally delivered the coup-de-grace.

* 'incongruity' – there is none! I learned lots of useful skills writing for anarchist magazines that came in very handy when I secured commercial book contracts. * “smear campaign” – Whilst I’m flattered to learn Simon is now a regular reader of my critical essays I feel he might be exaggerating to claim my study of the Anarchist Federation (AF) amounts to a “campaign”. I suppose I should accept it as a back-handed compliment. In any case I’m content to let readers judge the AF piece on its own merits.

* 'long history' – I certainly have a long history of anarchist activism dating back well before Simon was born and I’m touched that he has made some effort to learn more about my career.  However I fear he may have confused me with someone else for as I intimated earlier I have no record of slander etc.  He might care to flick through a few old issues of Freedom, Total Liberty, Anarchist Voices, Libertarian Education or many other mags or papers and actually read what I’ve written about constructive anarchism. Of course I can’t prove a negative but it won’t have escaped readers’ attention that Saunders’ lie is yet again entirely unsupported by evidence.

* 'decade-old decision from Toby' – Ultimately, of course, my critique of those who destroyed Freedom is no more than a splenetic discharge of long fermented bile originating from my 'decade-old' ejection from the columns of the paper by Toby Crowe, or so Saunders claims, referring to, 'The decade-old decision from Toby that you weren’t worth dealing with'.  Unfortunately for Simon I retained my original correspondence with Toby who in contrast to Saunders was unfailingly polite, reasonable and scrupulously honest.  I rejected Toby’s semi-Marxist politics and after several discussions and letters I made it perfectly clear that I no longer wished to write for the paper until open-minded anarchism was restored. Toby continued to try to persuade me to change my mind:

'So the dilemma is to reconcile arguing for my vision of what Freedom should look like while at the same time persuading you to carry on writing for it.'
'I want you to continue writing for the paper.  We seem to differ over our views of what Freedom should look like, ultimately over what it is for.'
'I have always thought the stuff you wrote was excellent and that is why I am particularly keen that you should carry on submitting material for the paper.'
'I would urge you to reconsider your decision to stop contributing.'

* It requires no further comment from me to show why Simon Saunders should never have been allowed anywhere near editorship of Freedom he has achieved that most eloquently for himself.