Friday, 8 September 2017

LABOUR'S DIRTY TRICKS IN BRUMMIE BIN STRIKE



Alongside the history-making strike by the brave, pioneering McDonald's workers, the other big conflict currently in the headlines is the battle of the Birmingham bin workers with the Labour city council. 

The media are quick to depict the mountains of rotting rubbish, but rarely expose the root causes of this long-running conflict. 


Back on 16 June, Unite the union won a 90% majority for strike action by the Brummie bin workers against the Labour council's plans - in their genteel phrase - to "delete" all 122 Grade 3, supervisory jobs; the leading hands on the teams collecting household rubbish. 

Under Labour council plans, safety-critical workers, on as little as £21,000, would be expected to continue their current roles - but after being fired, then offered jobs as bin collectors... on up to £5,000 less wages!

In a drive to save £5million a year, the Labour worthies and council officials also plan to turn the 4-day working week into a 5-day system, whilst keeping the same 37 hours; demanding collection from an extra 50-70 households per (shorter) day - on top of the frequently unmanageable current daily target of 1,500 households. All with the false claim of "a more effective, efficient and modern refuse service." 





Eating in The Bin Wagon

As one of the strikers (of 22 years' service) explained, he gets up at 4.45am, to start at 6am; others start at 5am. 


"We get a 15-minute concession break at 9am, during which we are obliged to eat in the bin wagon, with only wipes and hand sanitizers, because of the regular management intimidation over our productivity levels."



Birmingham appears to be the only council that insists on refuse collectors getting bins from the side of the house and returning them there, rather than the kerbside, closed-lid collection everywhere else. This slows down the job, but then workers are berated and bullied by management for their productivity. 


The job of the Grade 3 workers the Labour council wants to 'delete' is safety critical.
The drivers' vision is restricted, as they operate 12-tonne trucks, twice that weight when full. Kids run out from behind cars. Residents risk life and limb throwing rubbish in the back, where the lifting mechanism operates by sensors, and can crush you to death. Motorists rushing to work are abusive on a daily basis, get too close, and in one case drove into the back of the wagon and nearly killed the loader. Birmingham is the only council not to have a route risk assessment, despite demands by the union for years. 

As well as the physical safety of the public, the Grade 3 leading hands look out for other loaders, 40-50 per cent of whom (250-280) are hired as agency workers, on zero hours contracts, replaced daily on routes, continually forced to waive the right to permanent jobs - in one case for 9 years


Labour Redundancy Notices 

This dispute echoes some of the issues around Driver Only Trains; the crusade to eliminate safety critical jobs. But it's a Labour council that's acting like a bunch of dictatorial, Tory-backed bosses. 


Strikes began on 30 June. Through the conciliation service, ACAS, a deal was reached between the Labour council and Unite on 15 August, including:

"The council agreed in principle that Grade 3 posts will be maintained. Consequently there are no redundancy steps in place." 

In return, the union called off the strikes and agreed "to recommend to their members work pattern changes, including consideration of a 5-day week." 


By 30 August, the council reneged on the deal, issued 106 redundancy notices to Grade 3 supervisory bin loaders, with the Labour council leader denying a deal had ever been reached - which ACAS took the unusual step of publicly contradicting - and claiming it was "unaffordable". 


Aside from the appalling failure to uphold an agreement, the council's claims don't match the £269million increase in their 'useable reserves' in 2016 - to a total of £895million. The same Labour council spent a fortune hiring agency and contractors to try and undermine the strike action - which they've now provoked resumption of, since 1st September, by handing out very real redundancy notices. 

It would appear they are not only hell-bent on slashing wages and conditions, but breaking the union too, perhaps as the prelude to privatisation. 



Labour: Saviours from Austerity?! 

These bin workers need and deserve our solidarity. In defence of safety, wages and conditions.

But there's also a broader issue, especially for those (including in Scotland) who've placed their hopes for workers' rights and  workers' livelihoods in the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn's welcome, twice-over election as leader. 

For all the talk of Corbyn's Labour being anti-austerity, and winning mass support - especially in England - with that message, here we have a Labour council acting like the worst, anti-union Tories, carrying out austerity at local level. 

And just as we've said elsewhere, not once has the Corbyn leadership issued a clarion call on their own Labour councillors to resist and refuse Tory cuts.
Where has there been a word of criticism - let alone expulsion - of Birmingham Labour councillors from the same national Labour leadership? None that I can trace at the time of writing.



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

McSTRIKE! - build the fight for £10now and a union




September 4th 2017 should go down in the history books as the start of a fight by a new generation of workers against poverty pay, insecure jobs, bullying, intimidation and lack of union rights. 

A very brave group of 40 McDonald's workers in Cambridge and Crayford, south east London, voted by a whopping 96% to strike, in the ballot conducted by their union, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). 

They defied management threats and victimisation - including slashed hours and sexual harassment - for daring to be in the union; walked out to form pickets, were joined by big crowds of supporters on rallies, plus 14 solidarity demos across the UK. 

Their core demand was for £10-an-hour and a union. 

They chose to strike on 4 September to coincide with US Labor Day, where fast food workers involved in the sweeping mass movement in the Fight for $15 went on strike, as did McDonald's workers in Belgium and elsewhere.
It was the start of global workers' action against global capitalism's totemic symbol - McD's - global casualisation and cheap labour. 

Starvation Wages 

The conditions these workers suffer, and are striking back against, are symptomatic of not just one of the world's biggest multinational corporations, but of the modern serfdom that 21st century capitalism relies on to turbocharge their profits. 

Tyrone is one of the Cambridge strikers. Aged 17, he's on £4.75 an hour. He describes working with the unbearable kitchen heat, the impatient queues, the aggro - but still forced to skimp meals through poverty pay; still unable to get a home of his own, sleeping on a punctured air bed in his mate's bedroom, wakening several times to pump it up again. 

His dream of winning £10-an-hour through the union and strike action is humbling in its modesty: "I could get a proper bed. I could get out of my mate's house. That's all I want, a place and a bed."

Tom, one of the union reps, is 24, and therefore on £7.55.  But he often skimps meals to save enough to visit his 4-year-old son, making do with the one free meal McD's allows him. This is the same corporation with the company line: "We have committed to investing in our people, to competitive rates of pay."

That's the problem; the government's paltry levels of minimum wage means they are often all too 'competitive' - in particular for younger workers, whom McDonald's and their ilk prey on for profit, because they're legally cheaper to hire, due to the lower legal youth minimum wages. 





Them and Us 

McDonald's methods encapsulate the whole system perfectly, grotesquely. 

Their own investment calculator reckons if you'd been able to buy 1,000 shares last December - when young Tyrone started with them - you'd have made £34,025 profit by now... whereas even if Tyrone had slaved in a hot kitchen full-time since he'd have earned only £7,410. 

Tom can barely afford to travel to see his toddler son, but McDonald's Chief Executive, Steve Easterbrook, has use of the company's private aircraft, and enjoys a package equivalent to £5,684 an hour!! 

They use zero hours contracts to wring maximum profit out of their 80,000 UK workers - and almost zero-rated corporation tax; well, a rate of 1.49%, to be accurate! They only promised to offer secure contracts, with guaranteed hours, in a state of panic after the strike ballot. And they've yet to put anything acceptable in writing. 

"I'll Tell You What It's All About!" 

As BFAWU Scottish Organiser Mark McHugh told the recent SSP public meeting in Govanhill, McDonald's were the first to introduce zero hours contracts to the UK, back in 1974! 

"It's taken this long to take them to task. I'll tell you what this strike is all about. It's about respect and dignity at work; the right to join a union; proper health and safety - not suffering burns and being told to take your break now, instead of getting treatment. It's about the right to join a union. About having the same right to go on holiday as anyone else. To actually get a shift when you turn up, not be sent home because it's quiet. 

We owe it to young people to win decent rights, because these retail park jobs are not stop gap jobs, they're what thousands face long-term. The food industry is booming, so they should be treated as serious jobs." 

From Acorns to Mighty Oaks 

It's to the eternal credit of these strikers, and their union, that they've taken serious, courageous action. For £10 and a union. For abolition of zero hours contracts and secure jobs. For an end to bullying and sexual harassment, both of which are rampant in these sectors: fast food, hospitality, retail. 

These are sectors bedeviled by the poverty pay and job insecurity that go with zero hours contracts like burgers go with chips. 

The strikes were a tiny proportion of the total workforce. But a similarity small section of McDonald's workers went on strike in New York City in November 2012, starting the Fight for $15, which through strikes and mass actions in the communities has now won big wage hikes for 22 million workers in the USA. 


£10 Now! 

The trade union movement needs a leadership that is serious about its own grand words and wishes. A long, torturous 3 years ago - September 2014 - the TUC congress voted unanimously for the BFAWU Motion for "a £10 minimum wage for all workers." 

Since then most union leaderships have done little - or literally nothing - to implement that demand. The BFAWU and some other union branches have campaigned for it - as has the Scottish Socialist Party, on the streets, in our unions, and as a demand we put to councils and the Scottish government to immediately introduce. 

And unlike even Labour's best, Jeremy Corbyn, the SSP wants £10 immediately, not three years hence, in 2020; in fact £10 is rapidly approaching its sell-by-date, given the inflation on daily necessities. 

Defend the Strikers

These McDonald's workers deserve a medal, but above all deserve the protection and solidarity of other workers and other unions. As the BFAWU President, Ian Hodson, told a strike rally,
"If even one striker is victimised for going on strike, we demand that others come to the McDonald's branch and occupy it." 

That's the militant spirit of defiance and class solidarity that pioneered the creation of the trade unions, especially amongst the most exploited sections of workers nearly 150 years ago. 

We owe it to the next generation to build on the courage of the first ever McStrikers in the UK, to fan the spark they lit into a flame that helps burn out the casualisation and super-exploitation faced by millions. 

The SSP pledges to play its part, alongside the BFAWU and others, for £10 now and a union; for a guaranteed minimum 16-hour contract instead of the serfdom and insecurity of zero hours contracts; for full union rights and full employment rights from the first day in a job. 

Ultimately, for a society based on workers' solidarity and sharing out the collective wealth workers produce. As a Guardian columnist put it, "The problem isn't one company, but the system of which it is part." 

.............................................................................................................................................................

Here's the video the SSP did to build solidarity as the McStrikers prepared their brave action:




Saturday, 26 August 2017

SCOTLAND NEEDS SOCIALISM & SELF-GOVERNMENT - not Labour Civil War




As Jeremy Corbyn gathers crowds on his whistle-stop tour of Scotland, socialists, trade unionists and young people need to wrestle with whether Scottish Labour is about to be transformed into the vehicle for radical, socialist change.

It would appear most of the events Jeremy is addressing lack much opportunity for friendly debate; in fact, mostly none at all. But that’s precisely what’s needed, (in addition to the indispensable role of campaigning rallies) if the people who are drawn to Corbyn’s message “for the many, not the few” are to clarify how best to win far-reaching and irreversible change in our society. Socialist change in favour of the many millions, unashamedly at the expense of the few millionaires – in Scotland’s case, broadly for the 5.3 million, not the 10 billionaires!

Is it really wise for socialists to invest their time and talent in Scottish Labour on the coat-tails of Jeremy Corbyn's impact on working class and young voters in the recent general election - specifically in England? Should they ignore the profound differences in the political landscape of Scotland compared to England, or the baleful history of Scottish Labour? 

Scotland has an already-existing socialist party in the form of the SSP, founded in September 1998, and it has never once flinched from socialist principles and working-class solidarity. 
The SSP welcomes the boost to public debate around anti-austerity, anti-war, left-wing ideas that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership has triggered. 
Jeremy’s honesty and decency - with policies to the left of anything Labour has offered for years – has attracted large numbers to the message "for the many, not the few”. Although, it has to be added, the crowds attracted in Scotland bear no resemblance to the mass upsurge and outpouring of adulation for Jeremy at events in England; a reminder of the very different political forces on the field of struggle for allegiances north of the border.

Capitalist and Blairite Sabotage
The sabotage and onslaught from the capitalists, their media, and Labour's right-wing enemies of socialism is a warning that halfway measures won’t succeed in winning a transformation of lives for the working-class majority. 
Even the very modest reforms promised by Jeremy would require full-blooded socialist measures to succeed. In fact, measures advocated by the SSP, but NOT included in Corbyn’s manifesto! 
To use one simple illustration, the SSP stands for outright, complete, democratic public ownership of the entire railway system - not the partial, gradualist, potentially chaotic Labour plan to take over each separate rail franchise as it expires, years apart from each other. 

Labour Civil War - or United Socialist Party? 
Leadership is critical in any struggle, whether in a workplace, local community, national campaign on a specific issue, or more especially in the grandiose task of changing the system of political economy we live in. But whilst the role of an individual can be of enormous consequence to the outcome of such struggles, no one person can change society. That requires the collective.
Winning welcome reforms - like a £10 minimum wage, abolition of Zero Hours Contracts and expansion of education - will require a determined, united, socialist party, rooted in the workplaces, communities and colleges, committed to democratic public ownership, and prepared to lead mass struggles. 
Not a Labour Party riven by civil war, with MPs utterly opposed to Corbyn and socialism, biding their time to knife their own elected leader.



Scottish Labour bears no resemblance to Corbyn’s ideals.
 

Its key leaders (including Kezia Dugdale and Ian Murray MP) are sworn enemies of Corbyn; they helped stage failed coups against him.
In the words of Labour’s own Campaign for Socialism group, “In Scotland, we looked more like Jim Murphy’s Labour Party than Jeremy Corbyn’s”. (BBC, 21 July 2017)

Beware of False New Friends 
And as I've observed at the initial events addressed by Corbyn on his current whirlwind visit to SNP/Labour marginal seats, there is little in life that's more nauseating than right-wing Labour hacks, MPs and MSPs pushing aside anyone in their path to grab a selfie with Jezz, like a bunch of besotted teenagers. These include Labour politicians who wouldn't have spat on Jeremy if he was on fire six months ago, and pointedly refused to attend his election rallies, or even allow any mention of him on their election literature. 

How can Corbyn - or more to the point, working class people seeking radical change through Corbyn - have any faith in such superficial, latter-day converts, who echoed the Tories' and media's vitriolic abuse against Corbyn and his policies mere months ago? With new-found friends like that, Corbyn doesn't need the open, right-wing enemies that still control the Labour Party machine, at both Scottish and UK level. 

Scottish Labour's Real Record 
Since our formation in 1998, the SSP has fearlessly, persistently defended socialism - whilst Scottish Labour has acted as thinly-disguised Tories, abandoning the aims of Keir Hardie and other pioneers. 
Imposing the bedroom tax just like they did the poll tax; slashing council jobs and services; shutting schools to cut spending; keeping all the Tory anti-union laws; threatening to jail workers who dared strike against Glasgow Labour’s municipal butchery; spurning numerous opportunities to extend public ownership, or reduce inequality – including during coalition with the LibDems at Holyrood.

Judge by Deeds, not Press Releases! 
People genuinely wanting a society ‘for the many, not the few’ have a duty to judge parties by their deeds - not just the words in their latest press release. Let’s glance at a few case histories that illustrate this; contrasting the principled track record of the SSP with Scottish Labour's deeds, as opposed to any recent words they've discovered! 

The SSP pioneered the battle to abolish NHS prescription charges, in the streets, communities, unions, and Scottish parliament - only to be voted down by Labour MSPs.

The SSP has campaigned for No Cuts budgets, in defiance of Tory austerity - and frequently led fellow-workers in strikes; communities in protests and sit-ins… against Labour council closures of schools, community facilities and their slaughter of jobs and services. 
Not one single group of Scottish Labour councillors has ever voted to stop ALL cuts, and unfortunately Jeremy’s leadership has never once made a clarion call for Labour councillors to do so.

The SSP has campaigned since 1998 for abolition of the Council Tax. For a replacement Scottish Service Tax, based on income, with over 77% of households paying less, but the rich coughing up; DOUBLING income for local jobs and services (from £2bn to £4.1bn in 2015 figures).

For years, Scottish Labour relentlessly defended the Council Tax. Even since their extremely belated conversion (in August 2016) to the SSP’s mantra "abolish the unfair council tax”, Scottish Labour still refuses to call for an income-based, progressive replacement, based on ability to pay. And UK Labour’s ‘For the Many’ manifesto merely pledges to “review the council tax to make it fairer” – incidentally, the same position as the SNP!


£10 Now! - Not in 2020
The SSP has fought for 3 years, since September 2014, for an immediate £10 minimum wage for all over 16, with equal pay for women - in contrast to the welcome, but feeble, recent pledge by Corbyn's Labour of £10 by 2020 - and then only for workers over 18. 
In a nutshell, there's a 6-year gap between the SSP and Corbyn's Labour on the issue of a £10 minimum wage, plus a 2-year gap between us when it comes to eliminating age wage discrimination. 

And as I've written in a previous blog (and before that in Break the Chains), if Labour is serious about fighting for a £10 minimum, why don't they immediately use their positions as councillors and MSPs to demand a voluntary £10 Living Wage in the forthcoming budgets in Scotland's 32 local councils and Scottish government? That would overnight transform the livelihoods of many of the 500,000 workers employed by these bodies. 




War and WMDs 
The SSP has never wavered in its opposition to war and nuclear weapons.
Alongside SCND, we initiated the Scottish Coalition for a Justice not War, within days of the 9/11 atrocity - and subsequently mobilized 100,000 on the streets of Glasgow against the invasion of Iraq... as implemented by Labour's Tony Blair! Of course we were on the same side of that momentous movement as Jeremy Corbyn. 

The SSP has protested with others against renewal of Trident, demanding the £200bn squandered on weapons of mass annihilation be spent instead on the NHS; green energy schemes; schools; public housing and transport. 
We have always – in common with SCND and the STUC – advocated jobs diversification, to peaceful, socially productive use of workers’ skills… schemes that would vastly expand jobs, not threaten them.
Under Jeremy’s leadership, Labour’s ‘For the Many’ manifesto commits a Labour government to renewal of Trident. An incredible abandonment of the struggle to stop £200bn being squandered on weapons of mass murder.

Appeasing the Blairite Enemy 
Since this stance contradicts Corbyn’s lifelong opposition to nuclear weapons, it can only be seen as yet another attempt to appease and pacify the Blairites who still infest Labour’s ranks - especially amongst its MPs and Scottish leadership. 
One of many such futile concessions by Corbyn’s leadership to the pro-capitalist, anti-socialist Blairites in the past two years. All in vain; they are still busy plotting to undermine and overthrow Jeremy, emboldened by the capitalists and their media.



The Democratic Right to Self-government 
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. 
That Tory-funded, Labour-fronted lie machine confused enough people to ensure we now suffer several more years of ruthless Tory rule 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.

In the 2017 general election, Labour focused all its fire on the SNP, relentlessly denouncing independence – letting the Tories off scot free for their crucifying assaults on ‘the many’. Scottish Labour leaders advocated tactical voting against the SNP… which meant voting Tory in some areas! 
This concrete expression of Labour’s denial of the democratic right to self-determination for the Scottish people helped the Scottish Tory vote leap 5,500 per seat. Scottish Labour only gained 1%. It helped May cling onto power. 

Labour continues to deny the Scottish people the right to self-determination - unfortunately not only Dugdale and the Blairities, but also Corbyn and his allies. In Corbyn Labour's recent 'For the Many' manifesto, there is no room left for doubt: "we will campaign tirelessly to ensure Scotland remains part of the UK." 
Left-wingers in Scottish Labour who wax lyrical about the right to self-determination for other nations and nationalities across the globe deny that democratic right to the people of Scotland. 

Who are Labour's Chief Enemies?
Even Jeremy's chosen itinerary for his current speaking tour of Scotland - clearly putting Labour on an election footing in case the enfeebled Tory government falters - is very telling. He and Labour have decided to make a pitch in SNP marginal seats, but not gone near a single one of the Tory marginals in Scotland.
You don't have to be an apologist for the SNP (and I'm certainly not one!) to point out that surely the priority should be to drive the Tories out - by popularizing socialist arguments and mobilizing working class voters - in order to defend working class conditions, rather than continue to turn Labour's guns on the SNP? 
This speaking tour is a softened version of the Labour focus of attacking the SNP rather than the Tories in the recent general election campaign. And meantime, the hapless Kezia Dugdale only seems to become animated in the media when she blasts the idea of Scottish independence, at every given (or invented) opportunity. 


Independence and Socialism 
Failure to call for independence - but give it a distinctive socialist content, for an independent SOCIALIST Scotland, for the millions, not the millionaires - is the Achilles heel of Labour, even if Jeremy’s influence spreads to Scotland. 
It alienates people attracted to Corbyn's social and economic policies, all too often driving them into the arms of the SNP, a party committed to the continuation of rule by profiteering big business, with its track record on privatisation of ferries, hospitals and the business wing of Scottish Water as living examples of this capitalist ideology. 

As one woman expressed it at a recent Scottish Socialist Voice forum on socialism and independence, she and other SNP members "suffer cognitive dissonance, because I'm a socialist attracted to Corbyn's ideals, find the SNP too right wing on economic policies, but want independence". And as I responded at the time, there's a ready-made cure for that condition: the unequivocal socialism AND pro-independence stance of the SSP! 

The Hand of Solidarity in Action 
The SSP offers the hand of friendship and solidarity in action to those looking to Corbyn for change. We appeal to Corbyn supporters to arrange meetings with the SSP to discuss serious battle plans around our common aims - £10 minimum wage; abolition of zero hours contracts; rail renationalisation, etc.
But we also appeal to 'Corbynistas' to look ahead at the harsh choices that loom

Labour Civil War 
Scottish Labour faces an existential crisis that spells prolonged strife, civil war, and subsequent diminished electoral prospects.
The Scottish leadership will not cease to wage civil war against Corbyn and his left ideals.

They will be backed and boosted in their treacherous sabotage by a capitalist class and media 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 billionaires and bankers - the bastion against socialism - it was moulded into by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Brutal Choices 
So Corbyn supporters face brutal choices. Purge Labour of its capitalist wing (including deselection of MPs, MSPs and councillors) to begin to construct the embryo of a socialist party. Or continue retreat after retreat in a vain attempt to appease the right - as unfortunately Jeremy has tried for two years. 

The other critical choice confronting 'Corbynistas' is this: continue to alienate huge swathes of the Scottish people by opposing self-government. Or join with the SSP campaigning for an independent socialist Scotland, as part of an alliance of socialist democracies across Europe. 
Thereby 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 Socialism
The central problem facing those mobilized by Jeremy's laudable, left-wing aims is that Scottish Labour is a million miles removed from being a socialist party.
To begin to transform it into one would require naked, full-scale civil war in the party.

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, historically, has never in government pursued comprehensive socialist measures anyway? 

No Westminster Road to Socialism 
Experience proves there is no Westminster road to socialism; it's one of many institutions designed to block socialist change. 
You only have to examine the history of Labour in government - even its most left-wing variants - to see the truth of that. And any reforms, such the NHS, that were won through Westminster Labour governments, were the result not of parliamentary debate but of mass struggles outside parliament. 
In the aftermath of the conscious demolition of most of the nationalized industries of the past, and the removal of any substantial influence for workers' unions in the decision-making structures of Labour, there is far less prospect of radical change through that Westminster route than at any time in modern history. 

Exclusions of Socialists 
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! 
Even since the extremely welcome election (twice over) of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader - as an expression of an uprising against austerity, a similar phenomenon to the mass Yes movement in Scotland in 2012-14 - the Labour machine is still busy expelling and excluding socialists. And even some of the pro-Corbyn Momentum grouping are implicated in these maneuvers - hardly a harbinger of the outright socialist transformation of the Labour Party, let alone of society! 



Join With the SSP... and Join the SSP! 
My appeal to those in Scotland attracted by Corbyn 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 consider joining 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.

Scottish Labour not Socialist - and Wrong in Opposing Self-government 
The time, talent and hopes of large numbers whose sights have been raised by Jeremy Corbyn will be dashed on the rocks of brutal civil war inside Scottish Labour if they imagine it is on the brink of morphing itself from watered-down Toryism to the vehicle of socialist change. 
And whilst it's a radical breath of fresh air compared with the stale, capitalist dogma of past Labour leaders and manifestos, Jeremy's 'For the Many' manifesto is still very modest, gradualist, and lacking in the full-blown plans for socialist change that this exploitative, unequal society screams out for. 
On top of which it is simply wrong and alienating for vast hordes of the Scottish people in its crude, unbending opposition to independence - not even upholding the right to self-government, let alone recognizing that in modern Scotland, socialism and independence go hand in hand. 

Scotland needs Socialism - not Labour Civil War 
Jeremy Corbyn has revived interest in socialist ideas for masses of people. But the natural home for people inspired by his message is NOT Scottish Labour. Far better to add to the existing socialist forces organised in the party with 20 years of unstinting dedication to socialism in Scotland, the SSP. 

Why throw yourself into naked civil war to try and overcome Scottish Labour's entrenched, anti-socialist machine - with no guarantees of success, as they've alienated so many of the most radical workers and young people, making it harder to recruit fresh left-wing fighters? 
Why not instead throw your energy and ideas into building the strength of a party whose entire membership and leadership are already unashamedly socialist? 

Friday, 18 August 2017

SOLIDARITY WITH FIRST EVER UK McDONALD'S STRIKERS





A small group of McDonald's workers has today made history. 

Forty of them, in two McDonald's restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, south east London, have voted to stage the first ever strike in Britain in the history of this fast food multinational.
By a whopping 96% in the ballot, conducted by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). 

They are striking against bullying; cuts to their hours that has left some of them unable to pay the rent, leading to the loss of their home; and against zero hours contracts, for a £10-an-hour wage, with union recognition. 

Braving the Bullyboy Bosses 
Imagine the bravery of these workers. Small in number, but incredibly courageous, considering the vicious anti-union record of McDonald's. Living on the derisory national minimum wage, with no nest eggs to fall back on, but prepared to walk out on strike for justice, decent wages and union rights. Striking against bullying and cuts to hours which they regard as punishment for joining a union.

They deserve our unqualified, active solidarity. Including donations to the BFAWU union's strike fund, via...



Zero Hours Contracts Hell 

This strike hasn't dropped out of a clear blue sky, however. 

It's the result of years of being underpaid, undervalued, harassed, treated without dignity. And the insecurity and poverty pay that go together like burgers and chips under the use of the infamous zero hours contracts. Contracts which remain despite recent promises - under trade union campaign pressure - to concede more secure hours.

With over 90% of McD's workers on them, the fabulously wealthy multinational can dish out Big Mac starvation wages, preying on the fear and insecurity that go with the hell of zero hours contracts. 

The Fight for $15 
From the opposite side of the class divide, these workers have also been inspired to take action by the heroic struggles of workers across the opposite side of the Atlantic. Strikes, pickets, demos and political campaigning around the Fight for $15 also started out with a tiny minority of McDonald's workers going out on strike - in New York City, back in November 2012. 

As I explain in more graphic detail in Break the Chains, this movement has won massive breakthroughs in several cities and states, with over ten million workers now on the road towards $15-an-hour! Workers primarily in fast food and retail, (but also other low-paid sectors), challenging the claims in the UK that "it'll never happen in the likes of retail", which some of us face from union leaders as well as company bosses. 

A Million Times More
Contrary to the squeals of anguish from the top bosses of McDonald's, they can easily afford $15 now, or its equivalent £10 now. After all, their Chief Executive Officer, Steve Easterbrook, just awarded himself almost double the annual income he scraped by on in 2015 - now a modest $15.4million! 

McDonald's condemn the unions and their members for fighting for $15 whilst this corporate dictator is on over a million hours' worth that rate. The reason they ferociously resist unionisation of 'their' workers, whether in the US or UK, is plain for all to spot: the right to be in a union is the only guaranteed means to prevent bullying, end zero hours contracts, and win £10-an-hour. All of which would curb the multinational's insatiable hunger for profit! 





£10 Now! and a 16-hour Minimum Contract 
It's to the eternal credit of the Bakers' union that they've turned fine words into active deeds - unlike, unfortunately, the leadership of too many other unions. 

The BFAWU moved the motion for "a £10 minimum wage for all workers", way back three years ago at the September 2014 TUC congress. It was passed - unanimously! 

To their shame, many union leaderships have done nothing in the three years since to actively pursue this policy. 

The SSP has fought for action within our own unions for £10 now, alongside relentless campaigning on the streets for an immediate £10 for all over 16. In fact that's been our central demand since September 2014 - not the welcome, but feeble, promise of £10 in 2020 (and then only for workers over 18), recently pledged by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour. 

The SSP has also consistently called for a total ban on all zero hours contracts, and pioneered the policy of a legally guaranteed minimum 16-hours-a-week contract for all part-time workers, except where a worker requests lesser hours, in the presence of their union rep. 

The BFAWU have conducted the Hungry for Justice campaign among fast food workers, demanding "£10 and a union". That's what has emboldened these workers to throw down the gauntlet, striking against a multinational. 

Solidarity With the Strikers
Readers should send messages and donations to these brave McDonald's strikers, and help fan a spark into a flame across the UK. A movement that can hopefully help erase the curse of poverty pay, zero hours contracts and bully-boy bosses getting away with it in the absence of organised union rights. 

Stand up for these brave McDonald's strikers. Demand £10 and a union, secure jobs and an end to bullying. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

FOR A SOCIALIST CHARTER OF WORKERS' RIGHTS


Victories for the working class, our unions, our rights at work, are nearly as rare as people of conscience in the Tory Cabinet! 

So it's all the more justified that we celebrate the recent abolition of Employment Tribunal fees, as ruled unanimously by the seven Supreme Court judges. They deprived the Tories and LibDems of a fourth birthday party for the pernicious measure they jointly imposed in July 2013. 

Under mounting pressure from the trade union movement, and growing public fury, the upper-class judges abolished forthwith the fees of £1,200 payable before workers could even get a Tribunal hearing on cases of unfair dismissal, discrimination, or equal pay.
And the £1,600 payable to seek an Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing; to challenge any of the 50% of ET cases that go against workers, or the incredible 78% of all ET cases on discrimination - potentially the most important, involving the biggest compensation - which rule on the side of employers. 

This decision was the result of three years of legal challenges by UNISON, and widespread public support, as expressed in the response to Jeremy Corbyn's promise to  scrap the fees - ending years of criminal negligence by Labour, who merely promised to reduce the fees. 

Build on Employment Tribunals Victory 

This outcome underlines the potential power for progressive change possessed by the organised trade union movement. It answers the doubters and sceptics, who surrender under the battle-cry, "There's nothing we can do".


Now we need to push for far more sweeping changes, actually mobilizing the solidarity in action of workers and their unions, demanding a full-blown Charter of Workers' Rights.   

Not by waiting for some Messiah, but by motivating and mobilizing the millions of workers and their communities; utilizing the unified power of our class against the capitalist class and their political mouthpieces. 

And not just demanding it as a futile propaganda exercise towards the stone-faced Westminster puppets of capitalist rule; we might as well appeal to the stone statue of Churchill as await the Westminster road to workers' rights.
We need to target the far more accessible and susceptible Scottish government, and the 32 Scottish local authorities, with such demands. 



Unite for a Charter of Workers' Rights 

The SSP is more than eager to unite in action with supporters of other parties and none; trade unionists, young people, community groups; anyone willing to demand a Charter of Workers' Rights that could begin to transform the lives of the millions - unashamedly at the expense of the millionaires - both at work, at home and in our communities. 

By no means an exhaustive package, this could include the following:

Full rights at work from day one. 
Not 'equal rights', as demanded by Jeremy Corbyn's For the Many, Not the Few manifesto - which would include equal exclusion from the right to an Employment Tribunal hearing on unfair dismissal for the first 2 years in a job. 
Full rights, from day one, whether part-time, full-time, temporary, agency, etc.

The right to organise, strike and take solidarity action with fellow workers - and on so-called political issues, like privatisation or cuts - without fear of victimisation. 
This would require repeal of all the anti-union, anti-worker laws, introduced by Thatcher's Tories, retained by 13 years of Labour government, made even more repressive by the Tories and their LibDem coalition partners. Not just the welcome, but extremely limited pledge by Corbyn to repeal the 2016 (anti-) Trade Union Act, but all 30-years' worth of repressive laws. 


A guaranteed, well-paid, secure job for all on leaving school or college. 
Scotland's teenage model, Govan shipyard worker's son Connor Newall, told Radio Scotland that if he wasn't blessed with a career with cameras shooting at him he'd be in the army being shot at in wars. That captures the criminal lack of decent jobs, contrary to the vast array of work that needs doing to build a decent society. 

We should demand action - not pious platitudes - from the Scottish government and local councils to create hundreds of thousands of decent jobs, for instance by building social sector houses for rent; expanding education and public transport; investing in an NHS fit for the 21st century; ensuring free, quality social care services; developing a vast new, publicly-owned green energy industry.

A legally-enforced living minimum wage set at two-thirds male median earnings - for all over 16, with equal pay for women. 
Wages have been systematically driven down, to boost profits, and to cut public spending. Wages have stagnated and declined at the worst rate since the Napoleonic Wars. 

We should demand this guaranteed living minimum wage, legally enforced, which would mean over £10-an-hour here and now. Not three years hence in 2020, as promised by Jeremy Corbyn's manifesto; and not just for those over 18, as it says - but for all over 16, as consistently fought for by the SSP for the past 20 years. 

And if Labour or SNP MSPs and councillors are serious about a living wage, demand they here and now declare a voluntary £10 Living Wage for all workers they directly employ, plus issue public contracts only to firms implementing £10 minimum - pending their return in-house. 

Demand back the funding off Westminster and Holyrood to pay a minimum of £10-an-hour to the half-a-million workers employed by central and local government. 

A guaranteed 16-hour contract; ban all zero hours contracts. 
The SSP has pioneered this policy, to cater for those who prefer part-time work, but to banish the curse of casual, insecure contracts. Legally oblige all employers to guarantee a minimum 16 hours-a-week, unless a worker requests lesser hours, accompanied by their union rep. 

Demand the Scottish government and local authorities set the pace by introducing this 16-hour guarantee for their 500,000 workers. 

A guaranteed warm, weather-tight, affordable home for all, built to the highest environmental standards in Europe.
End the scandal of 157,000 families in Scotland languishing on the waiting list. Build 100,000 new social sector homes for rent over the 4-year parliament. Create tens of thousands of well-paid construction jobs and apprenticeships. Combat fuel poverty and pollution by building and renovating to the best standards of insulation and green housing technology in Europe. 

Guarantee a living state pension, with voluntary retirement at 55 for men and women. 
Reverse the creeping abolition of the state pension - the worst as a share of average wages in Europe! Give workers a genuine lifestyle choice between working and retiring on a living pension - based on the national minimum wage - immediately at 60, rapidly moving to 55. This would give concrete content to the "review of pensions" in Corbyn's manifesto. 

Guarantee free public transport for all, through immediate, democratic public ownership.
End the crimes of train fares rising twice the rate of wage increases since 2010; reverse the spread of safety-threatening Driver Only Operations; chaos and cuts on the privatised buses; mounting pollution and spreading social isolation. 

The SSP campaigns for immediate public ownership of our railways - not the gradual, piecemeal, potentially chaotic return to the public sector "as [separate] franchises expire", as Jeremy Corbyn's For the Many manifesto pledges. And for investment in an integrated, fare-free public transport network.
A modern solution to pollution and poverty. 



Demand More, Far More
The significant victory on Employment Tribunal fees should embolden workers to demand more, far more. 

The appeal of Jeremy Corbyn's radical-sounding social and economic policies should encourage us to demand more, far more, than his very modest manifesto policies actually advocate. 

The potential power of organised unions - held back for decades by vicious laws, use of the weapon of fear by employers, and cowardly trade union leaderships - should now be unleashed to reverse the tide of attacks on our rights and livelihoods. 

Join the SSP in demanding a concerted, broad campaign - rooted in the unions and community campaigns - for a far-reaching Charter of Workers' Rights. 

Help to make Scotland a place that puts people before profit; the 5.3 million people before the ten billionaires who own the same £30billion as the entire annual Scottish government budget.