Sunday, 16 October 2016

STRUGGLE OR STARVE! - pay, prices, profit

There's no evidence of low paid workers and apprentices doing the Conga in the closes, celebrating in the shopping centres, or throwing street parties in the housing schemes. 
The Westminster government's increasing variety of national minimum wage levels have risen this month, but not so you'd notice. 
Workers aged 21-24 are now guaranteed £6.95-an-hour; those aged 18-20 £5.55 - in both cases a paltry 25p rise. And it gets stingier still: workers aged 16-18 have 'enjoyed' a 13p rise to the giddy heights of £4-an-hour. Worse still, apprentices have been granted an insulting 10p increase to a £3.40 minimum wage. 

Discounted Young Workers
How the hell are people meant to live on such basement level wages? Young workers or apprentices don't encounter sales banners in retail outlets or supermarkets declaring vast, special youth discounts. But that's precisely what the bosses - many of them billionaires - enjoy under the pernicious regime of age wage discrimination in this fabulously rich country. 
And don't go thinking workers over 25 have it cushy. Try living on the Tories' maliciously, deliberately misnamed 'National Living Wage' of £7.20-an-hour. Or indeed the Living Wage Foundation figure - currently £8.25, about to be increased - which builds in several self-imposed caps on what is actually required for a basic but reasonable standard of living. For instance, the Foundation itself admitted that a full three years ago, in 2013, it should actually have been set at £9.08 in Scotland to match living costs. And it's entirely voluntary, left to the whims and fancies of employers, with no power to legally enforce it. 

Profits Plunder Pay
Profits for big business are at record highs. Company chief executives award each other salaries that defy human imagination. On average they earn 183 times as much as their average worker. To keep all the figures bandied about for a real and genuine living wage in perspective, if the government's national minimum wage had kept pace with the rocketing pay levels of these company bosses since it was introduced in 1999, it wouldn't be £7.20, nor the Living Wage Foundation figure of £8.25, nor even the immediate £10 which the Scottish Socialist Party is demanding, but at least £18.99-an-hour, here and now in 2016! 

Wage Stagnation 
Workers' wages are stagnating, and have for over 30 years. Real wages have plunged by 10% since the 2008 financial crisis, brought about by bankers, billionaires and the political choices of their capitalist system. Wages have been consciously slashed to boost profits, with the aid of the legal chains forged to stop unions fighting back for a better share in wages and public services. 
And it's set to get worse for millions of workers' families over the next couple of years, as inflation re-enters the political economy after a period of very low official inflation figures. 

Food banks for Food workers
Even before the Brexit vote, workers' wages were slaughtered by the cost of basics like housing, transport and food. 
An astonishing six million UK families - five million of them with one or more people in jobs - are what the Tories have christened "just managing families". In poverty, working to remain poor, in more honest English. 
As the Resolution Foundation think tank has measured, these families now spend 25% of their incomes on housing - equivalent to a hidden income tax rise of 14p in the £1 compared to their situation in 1995. Transport costs are the highest in Europe. And contrary to the press propaganda, most of us haven't noticed the alleged fall in the price of food the last couple of years! On the contrary, as I recounted in my book Break the Chains, there are cases aplenty of fast food and supermarket staff serving food but having to rely on food banks to stave off hunger on their starvation wages. And as the Food Foundation recently commented, 
"Higher prices force families who are struggling to go for the cheapest calories. Children in the most deprived areas already experience twice the levels of obesity than children in the least deprived."

Before and after Brexit vote 
Now the Brexit vote has triggered a nosedive in the value of sterling, which spells disaster for the cost of living for low and middle-income families.
A lot of economically illiterate dross has been pumped out by some capitalist commentators about the fall in value of sterling against the Euro and US dollar meaning a heyday for British exports. What exports? For decades the dominant finance wing of the capitalists, and their hired politicians, have decimated industry in the likes of Scotland. Instead, they've concentrated on making big bucks through financial speculation and slaughtered wages. 
With wages so low, they shored up demand and sales through a glut of credit for a period, which then crashed in 2008, with workers made to pay twice over: through the £1.3trillion bailout of the banks from public funds, and eight years of austerity cuts since to recover that debt. 

Plunging Pound and Inflation 
The central fact is that the uncertainty post-Brexit Referendum has added to panic on the money markets and amongst manufacturers, with an 18% fall in the value of the £pound since May. Already car manufacturers like Fords, Vauxhalls and Peugeot have passed on price increases in the UK to compensate their profits for the weakened pound. The price of raw materials and goods needed by UK factories have in August grown faster than at any time since 2011. 
The very public spat between suppliers Unilever and retailers Tescos over the price of Marmite, PG Tips and Pot Noodle highlights the looming price rises for food. Prices at the petrol pumps are set to rise this month. Foodstuffs and other daily items are already being priced beyond the reach of the lowest paid, including a million people below the breadline in Scotland. For instance, butter prices have rocketed 75% since May; items like shampoo by 17%. 

All this has led economists at several leading banks to forecast inflation will leap to 3% or 4% in the next year, eating away at the value of workers' wages as they fork out for food, everyday essentials, housing and transport. That's also the view expressed forcibly by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney - not noted for his trade unionist or socialist tendencies! 

Pay Cuts - With Worse to Come 
Meanwhile, wages are stagnant, and capitalist employers, governments and local governments are poised to make things even worse by protecting profit margins and implementing austerity cuts through de facto wage cuts. For instance, Deloitte did a recent survey of the chief financial officers of major UK companies, and found 94% of them view cutting costs as the key priority for the next year; in other words, cuts to wages and/or jobs. 
Numerous retail giants - with profits measured in £billions rather than £millions - have won kudos for increasing hourly pay rates, in a very few cases volunteering the Living Wage Foundation rate of £8.25. The same ruthless profiteers have tried to bury the bad news that they've robbed back some or all of that wage concession by slashing premium payments for anti-social hours on Bank Holidays, Sundays, nightshifts or overtime. In several instances, workers are literally worse off each week - but their bosses win extra customers through appearing like 'ethical employers'. 

What Alternatives to the Tories' Atrocities?
Most people won't be fooled by the stomach-churning guff from Theresa May (or Ruth Davidson) about the Tories being "the party of the working class", concerned about "the just managing families". This is the party driving people into starvation, even suicide, with their benefits sanctions regime, and whose anti-Trade Union Bill makes Britain the most repressive anti-worker state in the entire western world.

But what alternatives are on offer from other, anti-Tory parties?

Since our foundation in 1998, the SSP has persistently fought for a living national minimum wage - for all over 16, apprentices included, with equal pay for women - based on a formula that would challenge poverty head on, and automatically upgrade pay with rises in average pay or prices: a minimum calculated as two-thirds male median wages. Since 2014 that has meant we've demanded £10-an-hour, here and now, not in some distant future. 
In September 2014, the TUC - representing nearly seven million organised trade union members - unanimously voted for "a £10 minimum wage for all workers". 
In the last month or so, Labour's socialist Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (and less volubly Jeremy Corbyn), have echoed that demand of the TUC.

TUC and Labour
But here's the problem. The TUC leadership - and most of the individual affiliated unions - haven't lifted a finger to pursue that aim, two years on, despite the demands of SSP members and other socialists in the unions. It's been left hanging as 'an aspiration', with no timescale fixed for achieving it, no plans laid to agitate and organise a battle for it, with union negotiators lodging pay claims that include a £10 minimum. 

In the case of Corbyn's and McDonnell's Labour, whilst an extremely welcome addition to the clamour for a real living wage, they only ask for £10 by 2020! Provided the Labour leadership advocate that for workers of all ages, it would obviously be better than the Tories' 'promise' of £9 by 2020 - but only for those over 25.
It would also be substantially better than the £8.70-an-hour by 2020 which the SNP committed to in an independent Scotland since the 2014 Referendum campaign. 
But £10 in 2020 would be nothing like the £10 now, today, in 2016, which the SSP and an honorable minority of unions - especially the Bakers' Union - are demanding. It would be drastically devalued four years hence, given the forecasts on inflation already explained. 

Waiting for Westminster?!
We can't just sit back and wait for generous handouts from the Westminster government - increasingly likely to be Tory for at least another parliamentary term, given the shameful civil war against Corbyn by Labour MPs and the Scottish Labour leadership around Kezia Dugdale. 
Workers and socialists need to agitate and organise for £10 now in their unions and on the streets, and bombard local councillors, MSPs and the Scottish government to implement a Scottish living minimum wage of £10 for all without further delay. 
The SSP campaigns for devolution of power to Holyrood over setting the statutory minimum wage. But whilst fighting for that, we should also demand that all Scottish councils and the Scottish government not only gain the kudos of volunteering as Accredited Living Wage Employers, but also insist on them implementing it through contracts and procurement... and set the (voluntary) Living Wage for Scotland at £10 here and now. 

SNP Shortcomings 
The SNP government claims to be 'Stronger for Scotland'. At the recent SNP conference, they made the wholly welcome call for an end to the lower youth rates for the so-called Living Wage. The original Motion, from the SNP Trade Union Group and Chris Stephens MP, only asked for the feeble £7.20 for all ages. A Paisley branch amendment improved that substantially to the Living Wage Foundation's £8.25. But the Motion agreed merely asks the Westminster government to implement this, rather than any concrete proposals on how to archive this within Scotland - even within the confines of devolution - and furthermore puts no timescale on when Westminster should implement it!

Slave Wages at Sea
At the same SNP conference, a lobby of seafarers in the RMT union demanded an end to the scandal in the Northern Isles where a shipping company (Clipper), registered in the notorious Bahamas tax haven, is paying foreign workers a criminal £3.66-an-hour for working the contract they won off the Scottish government. That's the brutal realities behind the headlines, which must be outlawed immediately. 

Join the SSP's Struggles 
The SSP won't relent on our campaign for £10 now, for pay before profit, for a radical redistribution of the wealth produced by the working class in the first place. Join us in battling for a genuine living wage, with no age or gender discrimination, and put the employers, councillors and Scottish government under relentless pressure to outlaw the crucifying poverty pay suffered by about half a million workers in Scotland. 
It's increasingly, literally, a case of the old 1930s socialist slogan: Struggle or Starve! 

Monday, 19 September 2016


The courageous determination of ScotRail guards, who sacrificed 13 days' pay by striking for public safety, has won a clear victory in a deal which will now be considered by the national executives of both the RMT and ASLEF unions, with negotiators recommending acceptance. 

After prolonged talks with ScotRail Abellio bosses - latterly involving combined negotiating teams from both unions - the employers have massively retreated from their original plans to extend Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains across the Central Belt and beyond. 
The deal reached retains the fundamental role of the safety-critical guards. It comes nowhere near the bosses' and government's original plans to dump core safety procedures - door operations and train dispatches - on the driver. It is a substantial victory for strike action by RMT members. 

The Abellio bosses, driven by the franchise issued to them by the SNP government in October 2014, had hoped to get rid of the safety critical guards/conductors - and replace them with lower-paid, lesser-trained Ticket Examiners, who in at least 20% of cases are absent from DOO trains due to chronic staffing shortages. 
It was a case of cutting costs in the medium term, and to hell with the safety consequences. 

Contrary to any slick spin from Abellio bosses over the next 24 hours, we need to recall how they bullied staff; tried to bypass the union by use of social media and letters to guards' homes; refused to even meet the unions for weeks on end, let alone enter meaningful negotiations; conscripted management scabs to run trains at public risk; deployed fearful agency staff to hand out their propaganda; used a compliant capitalist media to belittle the role of guards and silence the workers' case from being heard and understood by the travelling public; threatened to use Westminster Tory anti-union laws against the RMT, to bludgeon their members into submission; and enjoyed the encouragement of the SNP government, whose Nicola Sturgeon also belittled the skilled guards' role, and the cause of the strikers, by echoing Abellio's contemptuous remarks about it being "all about who presses a button". 

The Abellio bosses - and indeed the Scottish government who spurned the chance to take our railways back into public ownership, and instead actively encouraged the Dutch state-owned franchise-holders to implement DOO - severely underestimated the passion for safety and principled courage of RMT members.
Strike action has forced through a deal that is overwhelmingly a success story for the solidarity of workers taking action. 
It will guarantee a guard on every one of the new electrified trains (EMUs) planned for next year. 
That guarantee will apply for the remainder of the Abellio franchise - and indeed beyond, with a pledge that it will be transferred over to any future franchise, through TUPE. 
Furthermore - and critically - none of these trains will be allowed to move without a guard on board, which prevents the government or ScotRail bosses using weasel words about 'a second crew member being scheduled' - but then not actually on board, as happens with at least one in five DOO trains right now, where the train moves whilst being literally driver only, without a Ticket Examiner on duty. 

The one area of concession by the unions is on operation of the train doors, but even on that the Abellio bosses have failed to fully get their way. They had intended that the driver would not only face the onerous task of driving, but would also be responsible for opening and shutting the doors, thereby making drivers in charge of train dispatches from stations, with all the huge risks to passengers that we've explained in previous articles and videos. 
But in the deal now being recommended by both the RMT and ASLEF negotiators, the driver will open the doors and the conductor/guard will close the train door, thereby retaining their vital role in checking for passengers' safety at the Passenger Train Interface (PTI). 

Compared with the current system that is a step backwards. It adds pressure to the driver; it increases the risk of trains stopping short on platforms (especially with the new, longer, eight carriage EMU trains) without the driver spotting the problem, which potentially could mean passengers spilling out onto the track. 
But with agreement that the guard will dispatch the train after safety checks at the station, and door technology that will help them correct mistakes by the driver on door controls, the most fundamental demands of the RMT strikers have been granted. That's a far cry from the original aims of the profit-driven Abellio bosses and Scottish government, to remove all control of the doors from the guards. 

This prolonged battle has shown the willingness of workers to take action if given a lead by their unions. It is to the eternal credit of those union activists who refused to just roll over and accept the DOO plans at the very start of the process. Their refusal to comply, or to just 'see how it goes', has been vindicated by the outcome. Above all, every one of the strikers who was prepared to put public safety top of the agenda, willing to lose wages in order to 'Keep the Guard', deserves the admiration and applause of every trade unionist, every passenger, every self-respecting worker. 

This successful workers' struggle should now be the launchpad for the ongoing campaign to make trains safe: to win back a guard on every train that was converted to a DOO train, in most cases over 30 years ago. To win investment in safe, comfortable, fully staffed stations. To halt the cuts to infrastructure jobs and ticket offices. And to further the struggle for democratic public ownership of the railways, so that safety is put before profit, passengers before shareholders, the millions before the millionaires. 
The Scottish Socialist Party is proud to have fought alongside these courageous fighters - and we will continue to do so in favour of a fundamental change in the type of society we live in. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


The battle to ensure public safety and job security on Scotland's railways continues, and the Scottish Socialist Party is determined to play its part alongside the rail workers' unions and passengers. 
The RMT union have called a major demo outside the Scottish parliament on 8 September, and a series of public meetings to acquaint the travelling public with the facts. 
The prolonged talks between ScotRail Abellio bosses and the two railway unions - RMT and ASLEF - have yet to reach an acceptable agreement on keeping the guards. Many workers are furious at the bosses' stalling tactics, and are willing to resume strike action if they don't rapidly offer an acceptable package that puts safety critical guards - not drivers, who should be left to drive - at the heart of train dispatch procedures, as demanded jointly by the RMT and ASLEF. 

Plague of Privatization 
Every event surrounding these issues proves that the plague of privatization and profiteering is totally incompatible with public safety and people's jobs being secured. In battling shoulder-to-shoulder for safety alongside railworkers and their unions, the SSP is arguing for democratic publIc ownership and control of the railways - and transport in general - as the only route to guaranteed investment in safety, instead of the big business racketeering and chaotic fragmentation of the railway system under privatization. 

Public Funds Bail Out Profits 
Perhaps the worst current example of how profit threatens safety and rips asunder public services is that of Southern railways - the busiest lines in the whole UK. Under privatization, French-owned Govia has the franchise, and has caused absolute mayhem and meltdown for passengers, whilst treating their staff like slaves to be punished for daring to stand up for public safety. When train drivers took industrial action to stop the company breaching safety agreements, they plundered about £250,000 from ASLEF through the capitalist courts, and seized drivers' mobile phones to gather evidence of orchestrated industrial action, whilst robbing them of their staff travel concessions. 

Reward for Failure
Hot on the heels of this, the same profit-crazed bosses have tried to bypass the RMT and brutally enforce Driver Only trains - removing the safety-critical guards. And just to rub salt into workers' wounds, this week the same company announced a phenomenal 27 per cent rise in their profits - to £99.8million for the year up to July. That's from revenues rising to £3.4billion. 
In case anyone dares get angry at this profiteering by a company that has made failure to deliver its watchword, its chief executive, David Brown, has generously waived his annual bonus and this year's salary increase. Before you forgive this benefactor, we should add he took home a humble £2.16million last year! 

Not content with this thick slice of profit, Govia's political puppeteers - the Tory government - had made their very own announcement regarding Southern railways... literally the day before. They declared that £20million of taxpayers' money was to be taken from government-run Network Rail's budget and thrown into the bottomless pit that is Govia-run Southern railways! An obnoxious example of workers and passengers bailing out the profiteers, after they've made the service a bitter laughing stock, at home and abroad. Reward for failure; propping up the profiteers at public expense. 

Capitalist Chaos on Railways 
This capitalist chaos on the railways - with the drive for profit threatening public safety and robbing both railworkers and passengers - applies across the UK, including Scotland. And all the pro-business, mainstream political parties prefer and perpetrate this profit-driven chaos; the Tories, LibDems, Labour and indeed the SNP. 

The roots of current battles to keep safety critical guards on our trains, and to stop cuts to station staff, ticket offices, signaling and track maintenance, go back to the McNulty Report of May 2011. 
This cringingly titled Rail Value for Money Study was commissioned by the Labour government of Blair and Brown - who retained Tory rail privatization throughout 13 years of Labour governments - but published and enthusiastically embraced by the subsequent Tory/LibDem Coalition. 
As the late, socialist RMT leader Bob Crow wrote at the time:

"The basic message of the McNulty report is that rail workers and passengers are being asked to pay the price of privatization. The multitude of private competing interests who make up our fragmented industry are not only let off the hook, but are given even more powers. The report is far from independent. It is based on the same crackpot ideology that led to the original privatization of our railways."

McNulty: Right Diagnosis, wrong Medicine
Sir Roy McNulty utterly ignored the damning evidence against privatization that his own study unearthed. For instance, that (by 2011) privatization had massively escalated costs of running the network, requiring three times as much public subsidy as under previous nationalisation; costing three times as much to run; being 30% less efficient than the railways in other European countries. In large measure because the latter are mostly state owned, and don't suffer the plague of scores of competing profiteers, each requiring their own dividend payouts to shareholders, individual borrowing costs, and chaotic lack of coordination - with a whole system of fines and incentive payments that are often contradictory, for instance between Network Rail and train operating companies. With train operators (TOCs) vying with rolling stock providers (ROSCOs) which lease them the trains, and a myriad system of payments between Network Rail and these, money ripped out of the labour of rail workers and passengers' fares has poured out of the industry into the coffers of numerous franchise-holders. 

Annual Waste of £1.2billion 
A full five years ago, in 2011, an RMT-commissioned study showed that £1.2billion a year was wasted this way. That's £1.2bn that could have been invested in track maintenance; new rolling stock; longer, faster and greener trains to match the rocketing number of passengers; safe, friendly, fully-staffed stations and ticket offices; and extension of safety-critical guards on every single train in the land. 
But that would have required coordination, rational planning, and a system driven by public need not private greed; it would need renationalisation of the entire railway network, with a democratic system of working class control and management. 
Instead of that, we've suffered the consequences of privatization before and since the McNulty report - a document which scorned the option of an integrated public rail network, and instead made many of the proposals for savage cuts and assaults on safety that are being rammed through right now, five years on

Passengers Suffer from Privatization 
Passenger numbers have rocketed since the mid-1990s; even by the time of the 2011 McNulty report, by 59%... and trains are even more overcrowded now. 
In Scotland, passenger journeys have exploded by 35% in the last 10 years, to 93 million a year. But rolling stock has lagged drastically behind the booming numbers of passengers. For instance, a recent report showed only one new seat on Scotland's trains for every 3,300 extra passenger journeys over 10 years! 
Fares have leapt up to the dearest in Europe - 30% higher than the average in Sweden, France, Switzerland and Holland (homeland of Abellio!), for instance. 

The McNulty plan for savage cuts earmarked 35% of all 'savings' to come through staff cuts. And the government and myriad competing train profiteers have gone about this business like demented axemen, with rampant closure of ticket offices, cuts to station staff, reduction of infrastructure and maintenance crews, and concerted removal of guards - one thing the rival train companies certainly agree on and coordinate their plans for. 
In the case of Scotland, successive franchise-holders - First Group and Abellio - have been hellbent on extending Driver Only Operations (DOO). In this they are carrying out the explicit aims of the McNulty report to the letter : 
"The default position for all services on the UK rail network should be DOO, with a second member of train crew only being provided where there is a commercial, technical or other imperative." (McNulty, May 2011)

SNP Implement McNulty 
But here's the rub: McNulty was a Westminster plan, initiated by New Labour, pursued by the Coalition and Tory governments with crazed zeal. However, transport is a devolved issue in Scotland, with control in the hands of the Holyrood government - the SNP government, elected on claims to be anti-austerity and to be 'Stronger for Scotland'. 
Which Scotland?! The Scotland of ScotRail workers and working class people relying on a cheap, integrated, safe rail service? No, by their deeds, the SNP have imitated the actions of other pro-big business parties when it comes to the railways.

As far back as May 2012, under Alex Salmond's government, the Scottish parliament's Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee left us in no doubt about their intentions - probably feeling secure in the knowledge the general public wouldn't read such a document! They stated, in black and white:

"We heard ideas that Transport Scotland could use to ensure that efficiency savings recommended in the McNulty Report are realised... Passengers care little about how the franchise is run... paving the way towards meeting the targets recommended by the McNulty Review...".

So instead of using the powers already devolved to set a clear, inspiring example of what Scottish independence could deliver regarding rail services, the SNP grabbed onto the poisoned plans of McNulty and sought to implement them.

Government Behind Abellio Bosses 
Of course some welcome investment and improvements have been implemented. But not a finger has been lifted by the SNP to remove the profit motive from the service, despite all the evidence in favour of public ownership that McNulty's research inadvertently provided. 
Instead of ScotRail being taken into Scottish government control in 2014, the SNP handed it over to Dutch government control, via the Dutch state-owned Abellio. And just to prove their zeal for McNulty, the Transport Scotland arm of the SNP government insisted on extension of DOO as a clause in the franchise awarded to Abellio. 
It's the hand of SNP government that lurks behind the cost-cutting crusade to get rid of guards, regardless of the cost to public safety. It's only the courageous strike action by the same guards that has stayed the hand of the butchers. 

Literally Driver Only!
Alongside that, the Scottish government has turned a blind eye to trains running literally driver only - without even a lower-paid, lesser-trained Ticket Examiner on board. 
During the RMT strikes, the government and Abellio were quick to endlessly repeat that 57% of ScotRail trains are already DOO. But whilst there are 600 guards on the minority share of trains, there are only 300 Ticket Examiners employed to staff the 57%! It doesn't take a Maths degree to spot that means there aren't even enough Ticket Examiners to ensure one on every DOO journey.
Monitoring by drivers in recent months proves at least 20% of DOO trains run without even a second crew member - with all the horrendous potential safety consequences.

Alongside that, by the SNP government's own admission, 70 per cent of all Scotland's stations are totally unstaffed. That's a factor behind several heartbreaking incidents of disabled people being left stranded on the station at night, with no station staff, or guard, or Ticket Examiner to help them. 

Safety Demands Public Ownership 
The SSP strongly supports the rail unions' campaigns to ensure safe trains. We call for every one of the current 600 guards' posts to be retained, undiluted, with full control of train dispatch. We demand that safety-critical system be extended to a guard on EVERY train, including those converted to DOO in times of much less jam-packed trains 30-plus years ago. 
We want every station to be staffed, with a ticket office, and provision for passenger comfort and safety. We call for full investment in infrastructure and maintenance. 
And the SSP goes even further than opposing the crucifying fare increases used to fuel privateers' profit: we campaign for an integrated, fare-free public transport system, a measure to combat poverty and pollution, a policy that would generate vast numbers of new and skilled jobs for this and future generations.

SSP Track Record 
Railworkers and passengers alike should study the track record of the pro-capitalist parties - regardless of the colour of their rosettes at election time - in contrast with that of Scotland's socialist party, the SSP. 
The first set stands up for profit through privatization, with horrendous safety consequences, and rampant waste to the public purse. In stark contrast, the SSP campaigns tirelessly for democratic public ownership of our railways and wider transport services, to ensure investment in people's needs and safety - as part of the broader aims we share with the RMT union Rule Book, which declares, "for the supercession of the capitalist system by a socialistic order of society". 
Join us in that struggle: your safety, security and environmental well-being is at stake. 

Monday, 5 September 2016


As 2,500 Further Education support staff take their first ever national strike action for fair pay, figures in a recent report commissioned by their own union, UNISON, show that workers across Scotland's public sector have suffered a real pay cut of 10% since 2009. And in the private sector it's been even worse: a 13% fall in real wages.

These UNISON members have resorted to strike action because at meetings of the newly-established national negotiating forum for all 20 FE colleges - itself the product of the FE lecturers' victorious strike earlier this year for national pay parity - college bosses have failed to shift towards fair pay. 
Whilst conceding £450 to lecturers after strike action in March, college bosses on salaries close to or exceeding that of the First Minister have only offered £230 to support staff - who include admin, admissions, technicians, cleaning and catering staff.

'Our Demands are Simple and Fair'
As Chris Greenshields, chair of UNISON's FE sector committee explained:
"Our demand is simple and fair. Pay college support staff the same flat rate rise of £450 that you gave to our teaching colleagues.
"We work for the same colleges, help deliver the same courses, support the same students and deserve the same cost of living increase."

These low-paid workers deserve widespread support as they struggle to pay the bills.
And they're part of an army of workers drowning in a sea of poverty pay. The recent study commissioned by their own union, UNISON, proved that if wages in Scotland had even stood still, rather than fall by an average 12% across all sectors since 2009, an additional £11.6billion would have poured into the Scottish economy.
And £3.6billion extra would have come into government revenues, plus a saving of £240million made on in-work benefits.

Workers' Pay Plummets - Bosses' Salaries Skyrocket 
The Scottish government needs to properly fund Further Education, a sector jam-packed with working class people seeking to improve their lives and livelihoods.
The one area of savings that could be afforded is not real-time wage cuts to ordinary workers, but a cap on the salaries of college principals.
Whilst college support staff are driven to strike for a miserly £450 lump sum, bosses last year earned from a 'rock bottom' £68,611 at West Highland college, to a sky-rocketing £153,000 at City of Glasgow college. It's outrageous that these bosses are often on ten times the wage of the lower-paid college staff. Not for them the 12% cut in real wages suffered by Scotland's workers since 2009!

SSP Demands £10 Minimum Now! 
The SSP stands in full solidarity with these college staff - and all low-paid workers. And our ongoing campaign in the unions and on the streets for an immediate, legally enforced living minimum wage of £10 an hour for all at 16, with equal pay for women, would transform the lives of hundreds of thousands. Not to mention its advantages to the wider economy, as UNISON's research helps demonstrate. 

Friday, 26 August 2016

AN APPEAL TO SCOTLAND'S 'CORBYNISTAS': join with Scotland's already-existing socialist party

The SSP welcomes the massive boost to public debate around left-wing, anti-austerity, anti-war, socialist ideas that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership challenge and current re-election campaign has triggered. 
We welcome the emergence of those new activists motivated to defend Jeremy from the vitriolic attacks of the capitalists, their media and their treacherous cabal of supporters in Labour's right wing. 

Since our formation in 1998, the SSP has fearlessly defended socialism - whilst Scottish Labour has acted as barely-disguised Tories, abandoning the aims of Keir Hardie and countless other pioneers, slashing council jobs and services, threatening to jail workers who dared to strike against their municipal butchery, and spurning numerous opportunities to extend public ownership or reduce inequality.

Labour v. SSP: the Track Records
The SSP pioneered the battle to abolish NHS prescription charges - only to be voted down by Labour MSPs.

The SSP has campaigned for No Cuts budgets, in defiance of Tory cuts, and frequently led fellow-workers in strike action and communities in protests and sit-ins against Labour councils' closure of schools, community facilities and the slaughter of jobs and services.

The SSP has persistently campaigned for abolition of the Council Tax and for a replacement Scottish Service Tax based on income, which would make over 75% better off, make the rich cough up, and DOUBLE income for local jobs and services.
Scottish  Labour has defended the Council Tax, opposed its replacement - and recently proposed HIGHER taxes on ordinary workers to compensate for Westminster and Holyrood funding cuts.

                                                   Scottish Socialist Voice July 2014

In the Scottish Referendum, Scottish Labour alienated hundreds of thousands of workers and young people by their shameless collaboration with the reviled Tories in Better Together - the Tory-funded, Labour-fronted lie machine that confused enough people to make sure we now suffer years more of ruthless Tory dictatorship from Westminster.
In stark contrast, the SSP championed the aim of an independent socialist Scotland - a different vision entirely from the pro-capitalist aims of the SNP.

Alienated by Labour/Tory Collaboration 
Labour in Scotland will never be forgiven by swathes of working class people for helping the Tories to hold onto Scotland, cursing us with their blitz on benefits, war on workers' rights and slaughter of services and salaries.
That remains the case if Labour continues to deny the Scottish people the right to self-determination - or even a timely second referendum! - which unfortunately not only Kezia Dugdale and the Blairities do, but also Jeremy Corbyn and his most prominent allies in Scotland.
Failure to call for independence for Scotland - but giving it a distinctive socialist content, for an independent SOCIALIST Scotland that stands up for the millions, not the millionaires - is the Achilles heel of Scottish Labour, even if (as we hope) Jeremy is re-elected.

Unite in struggle 
The SSP offers the hand of friendship and solidarity in action to those - in the unions, Momentum, etc - who are fighting in defense of Corbyn.
We appeal to Corbyn supporters to arrange meetings with the SSP to discuss serious battle plans around our common aims and policies - such as the demand for a legally enforced £10 living minimum wage; renationalisation of our railways; a massive plan of public sector house-building; for scrapping Trident.

But we also appeal to the 'Corbynistas' to look beyond Jeremy's re-election, to the harsh choices that loom ahead for Scottish Labour. 

Not the Same Surge in Scotland
The social democratic face presented by the SNP has attracted 80,000 new members. But it's only one face of the pro-capitalist SNP, whose appalling role on CalMac ferries, ScotRail, privatization of Edinburgh hospitals and the business arm of Scottish Water, gives us glimpses of whose side they're really on. 

The SNP is not, and has never claimed to be, a socialist party.
However, for years the SNP has been to the left of Scottish Labour on most issues. That's why there's nothing like the same space, nor the same mass surge of new left activists behind Corbyn in Scotland as has occurred in England. 
For instance, whilst there's been a modest rise in Scottish Labour membership in this second wave - the #KeepCorbyn movement of recent months - the phenomenal surge to half a million members at UK level has left its Scottish branch marooned: Scottish Labour's share of the total British Labour Party membership has plummeted to its lowest ever level in history, below 4%. 

Labour's Capitalist Wing Won't Relent 
Scottish Labour faces an existential crisis that spells prolonged strife, civil war, and subsequent diminished electoral prospects.
The Scottish leadership around Kezia Dugdale and its sole remaining MP have set their face against Corbyn.
Labour's right wing, in Scotland as well as the Parliamentary Labour Party, will not cease to wage civil war against Corbyn and the left ideals he represents. 
They will be backed and boosted in their treacherous sabotage by a capitalist class and media which is terrified at the thought of a left-leaning Prime Minister and the expectations and demands for radical change which that would unleash amongst workers and young people.
These forces of capitalist backwardness have no intention of reversing the transformation of Labour into the reliable agency for the billionaires and bankers - the bastion against socialism - which it was moulded into under Blair and Brown.

Brutal Choices 
So Corbyn supporters face brutal choices, including:
- purge Labour of its capitalist wing (including through deselection of MPs, MSPs and councillors) to begin to construct the embryo of a socialist party, OR
- continue the road of retreat after retreat in a vain attempt to appease the right - as unfortunately Jeremy has tried over the last year.

Welcome Pledges - Unwelcome Retreats
The SSP welcomes the many relatively radical pledges in the #KeepCorbyn campaign, including building 500,000 new council houses over 5 years; rent controls; an end to NHS privatization; universal public childcare; an end to exploitative Zero Hours Contracts; collective bargaining for unions in workplaces over 250, with full rights from day one; "shrinking the gap between incomes"; re-nationalisation of railways. 
Less welcome is the retreat on Jeremy's manifesto of a year ago. For example, dropping immediate free education, abolition of tuition fees, with a living grant in favour of the vague "progressive restoration of free education";  and abandonment of public ownership of the energy giants. That's a worrying retreat in the face of right-wing vitriol.  

Challenging Capitalism 
Historic experiences prove that a strong, determined socialist party, rooted in the working class and undiluted socialist principles, is necessary to challenge and remove the dictatorship of capital - whose fangs have been bared at even the modest policies of Jeremy Corbyn. 
The past year's Niagara of bullying abuse and vilification is nothing compared to what a Corbyn-led Labour government would face - with strikes of investment amongst the capitalists' weapons of choice, as Labour governments in the 1960s and 1970s experienced. 

So dilution of policy pledges - in a vain attempt to appease the Blairites and their media chorus-line - is an ominous warning that unless a more resolute, unbending socialist leadership is forged, working people's hopes would be once more dashed on the rocks of retreat under enemy fire. 

For an Independent Socialist Scotland 
The most critical choice of all confronting the 'Corbynistas' is:
- continue to alienate huge swathes of the Scottish people by refusing to support a timely second referendum, let alone call for Scottish self-government (as Jeremy and his leading backers still insist on opposing), OR
- join with the SSP in a massive campaign for an independent socialist Scotland, as part of an alliance of socialist democracies across Europe. Thereby not only uphold democratic and socialist principles, but also win over radicalized workers and youth to the socialist banner, instead of them being fooled by the fake radicalism of the SNP leadership.

Scottish Labour a Million Miles from being Socialist 
At the heart of the problem facing those mobilized by the laudable, left-wing ideas expounded by Jeremy is this: Scottish Labour as it exists is a million miles removed from being a socialist party.
To begin to transform it into one would require naked civil war in the party, thereby reducing its chances of election, prolonging the Tory agony.

Why devote time and talent to what may well be a fruitless attempt to oust Labour's pro-capitalist right wing, or spend years trying to fashion genuine socialist policies in a Labour party which in any case, historically, has never used its positions in government to pursue comprehensive socialist measures?
Labour's history is littered with unfulfilled promises, anti-working class measures - and expulsions of socialists for being socialists, including many of us now in the leadership of the SSP!

Join With the SSP - Join the SSP 
Our appeal to those defending Jeremy's reelection is two-fold:
- combine with Scotland's existing socialist party, the SSP, in joint campaigns on immediate priority issues such as a £10 minimum now; democratic public ownership of rail and transport; opposition to all cuts at council or national level; and for an independent socialist Scotland, AND
- join Scotland's already existing socialist party, the SSP, with already existing socialist policies (which you can also influence and shape at our annual conferences), and an annually elected socialist leadership.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

CLOSE THE OBSCENE GAP: for a £10 minimum and a maximum wage

The gaping chasm between the incomes of millions of workers and handfuls of millionaire company chief executives is opening up ever wider, like the blades of a giant pair of scissors.

The case I expounded in my book, Break the Chains, for an immediate national minimum wage of £10-an-hour for all workers - regardless of age - and a maximum wage initially based on an overly generous 10:1 differential with the minimum (i.e. £100-an-hour maximum) screams out from every page of every recent report on workers' wages and bosses' incomes. 

The top dogs of the FTSE 100 biggest companies have just had yet another 10% pay rise - and that's before they rake in untold bonuses, shares portfolios, and bottomless pension pots. Since the 2010 recession, these capitalist overlords have had their salaries increase by a third! They now wallow like pigs in the proverbial, on average incomes of £5.5million!

Back on Planet Earth!
Meantime in the same country, but on a different planet, UK workers' wages have plunged by 10.4% in the same five years since the 2010 recession. As the Bank of England expressed it, most families have suffered "a lost decade of income". Mass unemployment has been replaced by mass poverty pay.

Again, as I spelt out in Break the Chains:
"Poverty pay impoverishes not only its direct victims - the growing horde of workers denied access to society on a par with their neighbours and contemporaries - but also impoverishes the whole of society. The lack of spending power that low wages curses affected families with, in turn depresses the wider economy."

That's one of the reasons even the Tories - those privileged mouthpieces for the moneyed class of parasites - felt obliged to superficially increase wages in April, through their obscenely mis-named £7.20 National Living Wage. 
Of course they also sought to divide workers, by excluding the under-25s, who are increasingly hired in preference to 'older', more expensive workers in the likes of retail and hospitality. 
And the other factor that drove the obnoxious George Osborne to do this was the fear of his class at a pay revolt, as workers become increasingly infuriated at the obscene contrast between their grinding poverty and capitalist chiefs' shameless opulence. 

Capitalism has no Solutions 
Poverty pay wrecks lives. It wrecks the economy. It shreds social solidarity. And its accompanying inequality demotivates millions of workers who observe company bosses on 183 times as much as 'their' workers' average wage. 
But that's where the lunacy of capitalism prevents a solution that would keep the rich in the wealth they're accustomed to, whilst paying the wealth-creating working class decent wages that boosts spending power. 
It's alright for Theresa May - or Cameron before her - to spout platitudes about "the irrational, unhealthy and growing gap", but what will they do about it? They promised to 'aim' at the National Living Wage (only for those past their 25th) reaching £9 by 2020. That's pathetic, totally inadequate here and now, let alone four years hence. But it's also provoked uproar amongst business sections, who scream blue murder about "having to make difficult choices". 
Employers in hospitality, the care sector and nurseries recently joined with the Federation of Small Businesses, Association of Convenience Stores and National Farmers Union in a letter to the new Tory Business Minister demanding he abandon such giddy extravagance as £9-an-hour for the over-25s in 2020.

Profit versus Pay
So here's the rub: it's to the advantage of the capitalist class as a whole to have reasonably paid workers who can therefore spend more and thereby boost overall profits for the ruling capitalist class. But in the jungle warfare of capitalism as a system, with each profiteering outfit vying with its competitors, every penny pay increase is a penny lost to their individual company profits. 

As I put it in the book
"David Cameron telling a room of capitalist bosses that 'Britain needs a pay rise' is like Dracula appealing to a conference of vampires for volunteers to donate blood. These bloodsuckers have moved mountains for the past 30-40 years to slash the real wages of workers, boosting their profits by driving down the share of wealth that goes to wages."

Organise For £10 Now and a Maximum Wage 
We clearly can't rely on the benevolence - nor even the naked self-interest - of either the capitalist employers or their political representatives to tackle poverty pay nor the opening scissors of inequality. That requires an entirely different approach: workers becoming conscious of how they're exploited by this system, confident of their own power to challenge that set-up when organised.
And a struggle for the likes of a guaranteed minimum wage of £10 now, in 2016 - alongside a legally enforced £100-an-hour maximum income - as the first, modest steps towards the eradication of poverty, inequality and all the social ills they create.