Tag Archive: tuc


Diabled CampaignThe Black Triangle Campaign was founded to support the human rights of disabled people and to oppose the Government’s “Work Capability Assessments”, which re-classify sick and disabled people as “fit for work”.

 

The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of

The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.

Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.

There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.

Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.unemploymentGeorge Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.

No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.

The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.

There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.

Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.

The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.

Tax Havens
 The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.

Tax Breaks
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday.  According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain.  Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax AvoidTax Avoidance

 Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

Subsidies
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.

Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.

In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:

* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.Rebuild The Fourth International

Advertisements

Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF

VOAG Logo (Brick)5Labour, The TUC and the Levy

The crisis of British capitalism is reflected in the war waging inside the Labour party between Ed Miliband and Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite, the biggest trade union in Britain. According to Channel 4’s Fact-Check, “Unite the union is Labour’s biggest donor by far. It has provided 20 per cent, or £11.9m, of party donations since the election.”

Miliband, in a letter to Labour party members, is propagating the idea of “one nation”, so that Labour can prepare for coalition government with either the Tories or Liberal Democrats. Miliband states “A hundred years ago the Trade Unions helped to found the Labour Party”. From 1900 the working class through the trade unions founded, built and financed the Labour party to advance the cause of the working class by representing it in parliament.

Miliband further comments “The organised trade unions are no longer part of the Labour party, we are changing that relationship between the Labour party and the trade unions”. The actions of Kinnock who drove out the Militant Tendency and Blair who removed Clause 4 from the Labour party constitution were de-signed to kill off the last vestige of socialism in the Labour party. Miliband takes up the right-wing offensive anew and wants to turn the Labour party into an open capitalist party with no connection to the trade unions or the working class, although he wants to continue receiving big donations from unions like Unite.

McCluskey’s compromise is not designed to starve the Labour party of funds but accept abolition of the political levy. The levy is taken from each member’s contributions and goes directly to the Labour party. It is approximately £3 per year on an “in if you do not opt out” basis. As in the same debates about the Osborne Judgement from 1909 to 1913 most Tory and Liberal politicians want an “out if you do not opt in” position which would cost the party millions of lost subscriptions. The Great Unrest forced the 1913 compromise we still have today.

Ending the political levy would abolish the block vote at conferences and TU influence in local associations. It was the response that Jerry Hicks got crucially on Labour party funding in the General Secretary election in April from 80, 000 Unite members that aerated McCluskey to make his stance. The Labour party want money for nothing, vague Warwick Agreement pre-election promises never kept

The rank and file influence in the Labour party is via the TU bureaucracy, who are at one with Labour lead-ers in pandering to Imperialist chauvinism: British jobs for British workers, anti-immigrant bigotry and support for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. We must defeat this reactionary clique by establishing rank and file control. The Labour party membership must be won to this mass struggle. This is how to win the British working class to the revolutionary party.Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page for details of local events against the cuts.

Save Our Fire ServiceSupport The FBU Strike next week

FBU, 23/09/2013
For two years now our Officials have been in consultation with the  Government under its reform of public sector pension bill, the FBU’s aim is to achieve an occupational pension scheme that fits our occupation that is to say that one that the vast majority of firefighters can reasonable expect to work until retirement. However just before Parliament broke up for its summer recess it announced to the FBU that it was going to draw to a head the consultation and gave us a deadline to agree with their proposals or they would impose a worse scheme upon us. The FBU could not agree with the proposals put forward by CLG as primarily they are unworkable, do not fit the occupation and would lead to mass dismissals of firefighters without a pension or a job but also the FBU do not consider that putting ultimatums to our members is a good way of doing business.
There has been many independent reports completed over the two years, some commissioned by the FBU and some by the Government. This evidence has been used in the consultation and not once has it been disputed or discredited as these reports and evidence is without doubt credible and accurate and the  government ministers can not dispute the findings which broadly support the FBU’s case but more importantly prove that the government proposals are unfair, unaffordable, unsustainable and not designed to fit our occupation. The most notable is an independent report done by Dr Williams, commissioned by the  government, paid for by the government, the author was chosen by the government and the terms and reference was detailed by the government, yet the report their report broadly supports the FBU’s case.
The FBU balloted its members to see if they were willing to take Strike action to defend their Pensions, the Ballot return was excellent 78% “Yes” to support industrial action so our members will be called to walk out the doors at 12:00hrs-16:00hrs on the 25th September, this Wednesday.
Many of our Stations/Workplaces will have a picket but some are considering other activities such as leaving the site and walking into their towns to talk to the public, some are considering marching down to their local MP’s offices and discussing the issues with them. So I guess it would be best if comrades from other trade unions or local supporters and activists want to know what might be happening in their local area please contact the local officials who will be happy to advise.The VOAG

Voag-Logo-9After a year of silence The VOAG is back!

Bringing news and scurrilous stories

from Surrey and Beyond.

Campaigning for a better society.

&

Supporting

Surrey United Anti Capitalists
Save Our Services In Surrey
Socialist Fight Group

 Join The VOAG Facebook group to join the discussion or leave comments

May Day Greetings from the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International to The VOAG.

The Liaison Committee for the Fourth International sends its
warmest revolutionary greetings to The VOAG and the world’s working class, the poor and oppressed and in particular to its fighting vanguard- those most class-conscious elements- who have now begun to emerge on a global scale to fight its cause under the banner of the world revolution, so shamelessly abandoned by so many international groups claiming the name of Trotskyism.
 

Since the uprising on 15 February, 2011 in Benghazi, the ‘Libyan revolution’
has
been the touchstone for revolutionaries worldwide. The mass media
supplied us
with a great deal of lying propaganda, lies that the
majority of left groups
would have had no trouble exposing in an earlier period, as
with Iraq,
for example, but they did not try.

They did not find and expose the racism of the ‘rebels’, their lynchings and
summary executions of black people on the pretext they were all “Gaddafi’s
mercenaries from Chad”. They could not expose the CIA connections and obvious
pro-imperialism of the Transitional National Council, and even those who were
eventually forced to acknowledged this told us that there was a ‘real
revolution’ in the ranks of the ‘rebels’, pointing to the sole pathetic piece of
‘evidence’, the very sophisticated banner that opposed intervention with six
people around it, undoubtedly flown in from CIA headquarters in Langley,
Virginia to fool the gullible and those who wanted to be fooled.

Of course the LCFI recognises that Gaddafi was no
revolutionary socialist, he was a bourgeois nationalist who ruled with a
corrupt clique of capitalist backers, whose main aim was the preservation of
the privileges of that group. He assisted Imperialism by supplying weapons to
Southern Sudan to divide the country to enable the US to seize the oil
resources then controlled by China. In return Omar al-Bashir (whom Gaddafi
assisted to come to power in the 1986 coup) was the foremost backer of the
rebels in Benghazi, secretly supplying weapons and other assistance to overthrow
Gaddafi, totally consistent with the completely unprincipled character of the
national bourgeoisie.

Those on the ‘left’ who wish to assist in the overthrow of
Assad in Syria, (and they are generally the same culprits) can point to similar examples
of treachery, and the favours Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad performed
for Israel and the US in Lebanon, intervening to prevent the defeat of the Falangists
(Christian fascist forces), when the alliance between Lebanon’s leftists and
Palestinians were on the brink of victory during the Civil War in 1976.

As with the policy of the United Front of working class
parties, the LCFI champions the Anti-Imperialist United Front tactic as developed by
Lenin and the Comintern in its first four Congresses. Just because the
semi-colonial world is terrorised by a brutal dictator, it does not mean that they
are the main enemy of the world’s working class and oppressed. That epithet
belongs to Imperialism and global finance capital, and to it alone in all wars and
conflicts.

A defeat for Imperialism has always two great progressive
consequences. The strengthening of the class consciousness of the workers and poor
in the oppressed nation under Imperialist attack; and far more importantly in the
global balance of class forces, the dashing of illusions in the working class
of the imperialist country in their ‘own’ bourgeoisie, as the defeat of US Imperialism
in Vietnam showed.

As with the international class struggle, so with the national.
You cannot fight for Imperialism in its foreign wars whilst consistently
seeking its overthrow at home. Domestically, the first line of Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme, “The world political situation
as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of
the proletariat” is as true today as when written in 1938. Every refugee from the
fight to build the world party of socialist revolution must deny the truth of
that proposition. Every refugee from the class struggle blames the working
class for its lack of combativity and its inability to lead itself, and thereby defends
the class treachery of the trade union bureaucracy and their political
representatives in parliament.

Trotsky said the British Trades Union leaders were the “backbone of British
Imperialism”.
This is true of every national TU bureaucracy, from the British TUC
to COSATU in South Africa. Without for a single moment neglecting our
internationalist duties, our main task today in our own class struggle is to
fight and pose alternatives to these treacherous misleaders. The building of rank
and file movements in the trade unions, the placing of demands on all those who
claim leadership of the working class, the relentless exposing of the centrists
who defend the left Trade Union bureaucrats is our central task in the class struggle.

As the Transitional Programme says: “In the struggle for partial and transitional demands, the workers now more than ever before need mass organizations, principally trade unions. The powerful growth of trade unionism in France and the United States is the best refutation of the preachments of those ultra-left doctrinaires who have been teaching that trade unions have “outlived their usefulness.”

We therefore reject totally any suggestions that the trade
unions have become simple agents of the capitalist state; that Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme no longer applies in 2012, that we must seek to build
our own sect in isolation from the mass struggles of the working class.
We are as confident as ever that with a correct orientation to Imperialism
internationally,
and to the class struggle domestically based on irreconcilable
opposition to the TU bureaucracy, our small international current will

undoubtedly find the ear of the resurgent vanguard of the international working class.

·  Defeat World Imperialism, finance capital and its agents in Syria and in every war!
·  The Malvinas are part of Argentinean national territory, defeat British Imperialism!
·  No reliance on Bourgeois nationalist leaders, even of the left variety like Chavez!
·  Only the International Working class can defeat Global Imperialism!
·  Build the World Party of Socialist Revolution!
·  Forward to the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International! 
Liga Comunista—Brasil
Tendencia Militante Bolchevique—Argentina
Socialist Fight—Britain
1 May 2012

The Shrewsbury Pickets And The Criminalising of Trade Unionism.

By Peter Farrell, Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign, April 2012
The essence of the Shrewsbury pickets and their jailing, was not just a Tory Government seeking revenge on trade unionists for the defeat inflicted on them in the early 70s by the National Union of Mineworkers over wages; or the Transport and General Workers Union (now UNITE) for the dockers defeating them over the Industrial Relations Act. Or that building workers, traditionally poorly organised, had organised a 13-week national strike, and had virtually shut down every site in the country and had won a large pay increase.

The necessity to launch attacks on the working class and their organisations lay in the break-up of the post-Second World War economic agreement to stabilise capitalism. Europe had waged war and its industries and economies and cities lay in ruins. The United States financed the rebuilding of the world’s economies. It was called the Bretton Woods agreement, named after the town in New Hampshire, USA, where a new international monetary system was set out. The US dollar replaced Sterling as the world’s trading currency on the basis of Washington’s gold reserves. The working class had returned from the slaughter of war being told they would return to a land fit for heroes. They swept the Tories from office in a landslide victory for Labour on a mandate to build homes, jobs, better wages, schools, a National Health Service.

They had to borrow on a massive scale – the USA economy dominated. The probelm was that the amount of cash loaned no longer matched the amount of gold the USA had. A 2-tier system developed and gold prices began to rise. In particular the Oil producing countries weren’t happy to be paid pieces of paper which no longer could be guaranteed. So in 1971 came the break-up of Bretton Woods – and inflation began to rise. Wages were eroded, oil prices soared fuelling  increased production costs .

In order to compete and cut production costs on the world markets the need for wage cuts was deemed vital. But this meant that the Trade Unions had to be stopped from defending their members’ wages. Laws limiting wages had to be backed by laws stopping TU’s from taking action to defend these. The NUM smashed the wages laws and the TGWU dockworkers defeated the Tories after blacking containers which were taking their jobs.

Defying the Industrial Relations Act, the dockers continued blacking a container port. Five dockers were arrested and imprisoned in Pentonville jail and became known as the Pentonville 5. Dockers stopped work bringing ports nationally to a standstill. An estimated 60,000 workers surrounded Pentonville prison amid the threat of a general strike as more and more workers stopped work, forcing the Tories to release the Dockers. The Dockers’  leader Vic Turner, knew that there was only one answer – as the Dockers had demonstrated – that was action by the whole TU movement. The TUC and other major unions refused to mobilise their members in solidarity with the dockers, and sold out.

The Shrewsbury Pickets were then doomed to remain in prison. Des Warren’s book “The Key to My Cell” was so named because it revealed the key to their cell lay on the desk of the TUC. This book is a must for Trade Unionists wanting to understand the trials and the conspiracy. It is all in there. Des Warren did what should have been applauded by the TUC, UCATT and TGWU – but the top leaders of the trade union movement accepted them being criminalised by a State Conspiracy. 

As Des Warren stated from the dock at the trial, “we are all part of something bigger than this trial. The Working Class movement cannot allow this verdict to go unchallanged”. He led the way in refusing to except anything other than he was a political prisoner. Des was given the longest sentence of all the pickets, 3 years. During his imprisonment he spent 6 consecutive months in solitary confinement; during four and a half months of that time he wore only a towel around his waist. He was in solitary another 2 months, as well as at other times. On 36 occasions he was put on report for breaches of discipline. Des was moved 15 times between 12 different prisons – every attempt was made to try and break him, and inflict misery on his wife and children. 

From prison he led the fight for Justice and yet every attempt to mobilise union support was met with either lies or deceit by the official TU. Because the State had used charges alleging criminal conspiracy, the TU and Labour leaders used that to squirm out of doing anything, saying Judicial reviews and an incoming Labour Government would release them. Des and Ricky Tomlinson – who had been jailed for 2 years – had decided when they were sent down not to except the sentence and fight back. Apart from “Key To My Cell”, the defence QC, John Platts Mills, in his book “Muck Silk and Socialism” and Jim Arnison’s book on the trials, the fit-up was ignored by the media. John Platts Mills wrote, the trial of the Shrewsbury pickets is the only case I know of where the government has ordered a prosecution in defiance of the advice of senior police and prosecution authorities. Police had accompanied the pickets from site to site and saw no reason to intervene, no arrests were made. 

But Building contractors had complained to their federation, who complained to Tory MPs who complained to the Home Secretary. The 2 police forces involved, North Wales and West Mercia, questioned some 800 witnesses before deciding that proceedings couldn’t go ahead because it was impossible to identify any wrongdoers. The home secretary, in defiance of the advice he had received ordered the police to bring proceedings and in February 1973, 31 men were arrested, and 24 were prosecuted some 6 months after. Throughout their imprisonment there were numerous strikes and calls for action for their release. The most famous being the campaign launched by Wigan Builders Action Committee, which marched from Wigan to London demanding a general strike to get them out. It culminated in a demonstration in London with over 5,000 workers marching.

There were numerous attempts to get Justice and answers once Des and others were released, including exposing those TU and Labour leaders and left apologists who sold out. Des had been given Largactyl – a heavy sedative – in prison which resulted in him developing Parkinson’s disease which would eventually cause his early death. Des’s son Nick describes his struggle and his determination and gives an insight to Des in his funny and moving book “Thirty Years in a Turtleneck Sweater”. Many people helped Des and attempts were made for him to go to Cuba for treatment, but he was unable to go because he was too ill.

In 2003 Des Warren was awarded the Robert Tressell Award for services to the working class at the Construction Safety Campaign’s AGM in Liverpool, together with other Shrewsbury pickets.  Des Warren died in 2004 but before he died Mike Abbott who had helped look after him, promised he’d fight to clear his name. So in 2006, after 30 years and under the 30 years’ Freedom of Information act, a meeting was organised with Ritchie Hunter and Harry Chadwick. It was decided that they would relaunch the Shrewsbury Campaign. Meetings were held which were well attended and the beginnings of the present Justice for Shrewsbury 24 pickets Campaign was born. Other meetings were held and more people wanted to help. 

In London following a packed meeting where Arthur Scargil, John McDonnell MP, John Hendy QC, Ricky Tomlinson and others spoke, the London Committee was formed. A National Committee was started and a constitution agreed and things began to move forward . Many of those who became involved were not new to Shrewsbury. In London alone 2 had participated in the London to Wigan march as had Mike Abbott, 4 were full-time UCATT convenors, 1 was chair of UCATT London region, 3 had been involved in Shrewsbury committees in the 70s, and 2 had been involved in the launch of Des’s book .

Considering that UCATT had moved a successful resolution at the TUC. It certainly was not followed up. When the Labour government was approached and Jack Straw was asked to release the papers relating to the case, the National Committee was told that for reasons of national security they could not. Consider Bloody Sunday and revelations that troops murdered 13 civilians, Hillsborough police altering statements, Orgreave police violence. The National Committee has organised a lobby of parliament, 2 Early Day motions, and 2 fringe meetings at UCATT conferences.

Fringe meetings were held at the Labour conference in Brighton, speakers at fringe meetings organised by the Blacklisted Workers Support Group went to the Manchester TUC congress and spoke at 3 meetings. We’ve produced a forty minute DVD which has been shown around the country; spoke at numerous trades councils; recently raised 1,150 pounds towards the CCRC; joint benefit do’s for Blacklisted workers; stood shoulder to shoulder with the 6 months Besna dispute and the Crossrail sackings. We’ve aslso organised meetings with TU leaders and the TUC leadership. We have participated at all the hugely successful annual Shrewsbury pickets marches, through Shrewsbury organised by Telford and Shropshire TUC.

Today the lessons of the Shrewsbury pickets and the state conspiracy and criminalisation of the TU’s are vital lessons for Trade Unionists, who are facing an unprecedented attack on our democratic rights and the very welfare state workers fought for by this coalition. It’s not just simply a case of clearing the names of the Shrewsbury pickets as Des stated from the dock. Victims or Villains, we are all part of something bigger than this trial . The National Committee fully participated in the Criminal Case Review Commission the CCRC. And we fully supports it physically and financally. But the campaign must be wider, involving the whole workers’ movement, it can’t be left to a small sectarian undemocratic group based in the North West. With occasional support of 1 or 2 TU leaders and 1 or 2 MP’s speaking on platforms, no matter how sincere they may be. The TUs could have and should have made available facilities and money for a massive campaign if they really wanted to do something.

We refuse to believe that anybody can separate all the issues that workers face today from the questions of Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, they are intrinsically linked. Just read the evidence . The National Committee knows from messages that UCATT and UNITE officials – as well as ALL rank and file members – want to see the campaign reunited. The workers movement has been divided time and again, employers always seeks to divide and split campaigns to weaken them. we’ve always left our door open for anyone to talk constructively. Democracy in action is maintaining differences yet fighting the common enemy on decisions agreed by all.
By Peter Farrell, April 2012. (Reproduced without permission)
http://www.shrewsburypicketscampaign.org.uk/

Victory To The Sparks!!! –
Balfour withdraws ‘Sign Or Be Sacked’ contracts!

From Union News: 17th February, 2011

In a major breakthrough, Unite has announced that Balfour Beatty has withdrawn the self-declared BESNA contracts at the centre of a 7-month dispute which has brought chaos to industrial relations across the construction industry.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services was regarded by Unite as the ring-leader of a group of seven firms seeking to impose new contracts on thousands of sparks, plumbers and other engineers which they said would have substantially eroded skills required for new workers coming into the industry and enforced cuts in pay and allowances of up to 35% for the existing workforce.

The withdrawal of the contracts follows talks between Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey and Balfour Beatty’s chief executive officer Mike Peasland. Unite says the negotiations will be followed by further high level talks to secure members’ livelihoods and the stability of the industry.

It comes after Balfour Beatty lost a High Court action yesterday seeking an injunction to prevent strike action at the company. (You can read our detailed analysis of the judgement here)

Unite is calling on the other six firms to follow the lead of the main player Balfour Beatty and withdraw the contracts and the threat of dismissal.

Welcoming the news, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: “Balfour Beatty’s decision to withdraw these contracts, the threat of dismissal and to enter high level talks is a welcome move.

“Not only is it a victory for common sense, but it is testament to the resolve of hard-working construction workers who have stood shoulder to shoulder to defend their livelihoods.

“Continuing to impose these contracts would have resulted in a race to the bottom that would have been bad for the industry. We expect the other six construction firms to see sense and follow Balfour Beatty’s lead in talking seriously about securing livelihoods and bringing stability to the industry.”

In a message to supporters, one of the leading rank and file organisers of workplace protests against the contracts, Steve Kelly of the London Construction Branch, said: “You are all working class heroes. Well done to one and all.”

Dozens of Unite electricians had already handed back unsigned, the letters they had received demanding they accept the new contracts.   More on this story at:  Union News.co.uk

A VOAG Reader’s March 26th, TUC Protest Report.

It was an impressive show of strength for trades unionism in Britain with 500,000 people heeding the TUC call to demonstrate. Anyone who thought trades unions were dated or irrelevant should think again.

It was the largest demonstration I’ve ever witnessed, but also the quietest. There was very little chanting and the march moved very slowly. The demonstration was so large that those at the front of the march arrived at Hyde Park, the finish point, several hours before others had even started. The TUC was showcasing its “modern trades unionism”. Gone was the sea of red and brass bands- and in its place was a multicoloured, blue, yellow and purple river of people. This was “family-friendly trades unionism”.

I walked quicker than the march. I wanted to see as much of it as possible. Every so often I passed a samba band or individuals in fancy dress. There were small clusters of ‘black blockers’. They were not engaged in direct actions and many appeared to be wearing masks as nothing more than a  “protest fashion”.

I saw no confrontations along the march itself. Whilst the demonstration was still progressing, splinter groups were defacing shops in Oxford Street. However most protesters weren’t aware of what was happening in other parts of the City.

I stopped for a break at Trafalgar Square. College students had made a ten foot wooden horse and were parading it around the square. An hour later I watched them set it on fire in the middle of Oxford Circus. Once I reached Hyde Park, I took a walk down Oxford Street. I saw paint splattered windows and the remains of small fires on the road, but the confrontations that had accompanied the limited damage had died down- or had moved on.
I turned towards Trafalgar Square. As I reached the Square, I came across a sound system on a trailer being pulled by a bicycle. It was travelling up the Mall in the opposite direction. A dozen people were following it, dancing as they went. It was playing a mixture of drum and base and dub-step, with an MC chanting through a microphone. I turned around and followed it up the Mall, back towards Oxford Street.

As the sound system made its way to Oxford Street, many others started to follow the sound system. In no time, there were two thousand youth behind us. Dancing, and chanting along with the music. Shoppers and bystanders looked on totally bemused.

This was a different kind of demonstration. Vibrant, energetic, but entirely peaceful. Those that controlled the microphone constantly reminded all those that followed: “This is a peaceful demonstration” and “we are not here to be violent or to vandalise”. Two thousand of us danced up the street chanting along with the music: “Down with the government down” and “One solution revolution”.

We made our way back to Hyde Park, and after a short break turned around, to return once more to Trafalgar Square.

The routes back to the Square were blocked by police –and what followed was a cat and mouse game through side streets to get around the police blocks. We eventually squeezed down an alley and into the Square to be met by cheers and applause from those already there.

We came to a stop beneath Trafalgar’s lions, music still pumping- and there we stayed. As the evening drew-on our numbers thinned to around five hundred. Groups were sitting round small fires, chatting and sharing food and wine. Many people were sitting on the steps in front of the National Gallery, listening to the music. Police were wandering around the square, but keeping a low profile- and were generally friendly.

At 11pm, a hundred riot police appeared on the North side of the square, by the side of the National Gallery. Without warning they charged into the people sitting on the stairs, kicking and hitting them with their shields and batons. As the people fled, those that were hit or were slower, were herded into one corner and detained.

More police appeared at the southern side of the square, behind Nelson’s Column. Without warning they charged at the people who were either dancing or sitting around. As police lines formed, to encircle the entire square and to “kettle” all those inside; a few of us managed to escape to the last train back to Guildford.

NOTE:
Video Report on the March (Not the author)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zii2qzGbaM&feature=player_embedded

For another account of Trafalgar Square:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/03/trafalgar-square-police-young

The VOAG’s (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) library on the cuts: The truth behind the Con-Dem lies.

The VOAG has been reading a few trades-union leaflets regarding the economy and the necessity of public spending cuts. There are alternatives to public spending cuts – Click the links below to expose the lies of the coalition.Pamphlet: All Together Campaign by the TUC – Read here: 
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/tuc-all-together-capaign-myth-buster.pdf
Pamphlet on the cuts by the TUC – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/tuc-cuts-pamphlet.pdf
Pamphlet on the cuts by the PCS union – Read here: https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4015_nc_pamphlet1.pdf
Pamphlet: Public Spending Myths by Unison – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/public-spending-myths.pdf