Posts Tagged ‘TUC’

If there is hope for Labour, it lies in the collision course being set with unions over workers’ rights

21/12/2017, 11:27:05 AM

by Rob Marchant

“If there is hope, it lies in the proles”, wrote George Orwell in 1984. If we ignore the negative connotations of the word and interpret the word “prole” to mean simply “workers”, he might have had a point with a direct resonance for Brexit Britain.

It has been apparent for some time that the legitimate arguments of Leavers in favour of a Britain which would “take back control” were not generally made with the intention of increasing protections for workers. Naturally we might expect Tory or UKIP voters to be less interested in such protections (even among Tory Remainers), and even keen to remove them to have a supposedly “more dynamic, less red tape” economy.

And although evidently a significant portion of Labour voters (I calculate it at around 2.9m voters*) still voted Leave, given that this segment was less than 10% of the voting population, it still seems believable that the inhabitants of this modest demographic were either (a) further-to-the-left middle-class voters, who did not require such protections and further, felt it more important that the EU was preventing Britain becoming the standalone socialist paradise envisaged by Corbyn; or (b) people on more modest incomes who were simply unaware of the impact on protections that the EU afforded them and how they personally might miss them once they were gone.

And that is because in a party of “the many”, any other explanation would imply a significant number of turkeys deliberately voting for Xmas. The reality is unarguable that there are a number of basic workers’ protections which would suddenly vanish in the event of a poor deal (just ten are listed here); an outcome more Bermuda than Switzerland, certainly.


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We need a fair pay revolution to re-balance the economy

01/11/2014, 10:55:58 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

The UK needs a wages-led recovery. According to poverty campaigners and researchers at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the cost of living has gone up by 28% in the last six years, while wages have only gone up by 9%.

This cost of living crisis means bills are rising, often debts too, as many households fight a daily battle to make ends meet, with less and less cloth to cut from each month.

Following the global financial crash, food costs have soared in the UK   with price rises, since the recession started in 2007, ranging from 24%-55%, according to government figures.

Of course, it’s not tough for everybody right now. Statistics from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) show top chief executives earned 45 times the average wage back in 1998, now it is a massive 185 times as much. Such companies’ appear to be able to afford to pay the Living Wage.

It is a false economy for the current government to sit back and stomach low pay, as small disposable income levels suck demand out of our economy, with less money to spend in retail. As Kevin Slocombe of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) told me: ‘The TUC as well as countless economists believe a wages-led recovery is the only logical financial show in town.

“What we need is a new government, with an agenda for change. In May 2015, we have the ballot. We need a Labour government committed to national renewal and regeneration, with well-costed and convincing plans to re-balance the economy.”

Meanwhile, anti-politics messages resonate in a vacuum from the likes of UKIP, with trust in politicians and politics at an all-time low. A MORI survey in 2011 showed startling figures, of only 14% of the public believing politicians to tell the truth. 80% – that’s four in every five people – actively said politicians do not tell the truth.


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Labour history uncut: Splitters! The fall of the second Labour government

31/07/2013, 10:24:04 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

Panic gripped the Bank of England.

By the 7th August 1931, just a week after the publication of the doom-laden May report on Britain’s finances, unhappy foreign investors were selling sterling at a record pace.

The Bank of England reported that its gold and foreign exchange reserves had lost £60m in the past few weeks in its attempt to prop up the value of the nation’s currency and keep Britain on the gold standard.

A first-ever Brexit seemed imminent. Although nobody actually used the word “Brexit” because these were more civilised times.

Only a hastily arranged £50m credit from French and American bankers was keeping the Bank of England solvent. This wouldn’t last long and future loans were in doubt – it’s hard to take a payday loan when you’ve got no payday in sight.

In order to secure more international loans to sustain the currency, a plan to pay down the deficit was needed.

Governor of the bank of England, Montagu Norman talks to Ramsay Macdonald who has chosen, appropriately, to dress as an undertaker for the occasion

The bankers wanted £80m of cuts. So prime minister Ramsay Macdonald and chancellor Philip Snowden put together a programme to deliver them, including a painful reduction of over £40m to unemployment benefit.


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Labour history uncut: “I’m alright Jack” say the skilled working classes

15/11/2012, 04:15:53 PM

Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal continue their look at the development of the unions and their role in establishing the Labour representation committee (LRC) in 1900

By 1866 the Tories had been out of power for 18 of the past 20 years and were pretty ticked off. What’s the point of being a Tory if you can’t lord it over the little people by being in government?

In the meantime working people had started to organise in earnest. Unions were springing up, Duncan’s horses were eating each other and civilisation was teetering on the brink of the abyss – at least as far as the landed gentry saw things.

Worst of all, there was pressure to extend the vote to the working classes. The Tories failed to see why anyone should be allowed to vote if they didn’t even have enough sense to be born into a wealthy family. But apparently, some people thought otherwise.

Throughout the 1860s various attempts by Liberals to broaden the franchise were defeated by a combination of Liberal splits and Tory opposition.

But it was only a matter of time.

In 1866 the Tories squeaked back into government as a minority administration. After so many years out in the cold, and with a toxic electoral brand, the Tories’ first moderniser, Benjamin Disraeli had a plan.

Previous approaches to voting reform had involved saying “no”, and then when pressed, shouting “NO!” much louder and storming out in a huff.

Core Tory supporters loved this approach and it always went down a storm in the House of Lords, which incidentally was where the core Tory support sat, literally. But, out in the electorate, enthusiasm was rather lacking.

Disraeli’s big idea was to stop saying “no” and start saying “sort of.”

It was going to happen at some point anyway, so the Tories might as well be the ones to do it. They could then claim the credit and still only implement low-calorie suffrage, thus averting the risk that the Liberals might implement something bonkers like votes for everyone. Those Liberals were crazy.

Disraeli, shortly after his appearance on "Pimp my Tory"

Disraeli, shortly after his appearance on "Pimp my Tory"


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So, if Labour win the next election, where will we be in October 2015?

18/10/2012, 07:00:56 AM

by Peter Watt

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people will be demonstrating against the cuts to the public sector being imposed by the government.

The TUC’s “we were told there was an alternative” march and rally in central London is the latest in a series of events organised against the cuts since Ed Balls unveiled his emergency budget in June.  PM Miliband faced heckling and walkouts at the TUC in early September and at the Labour party conference 100,000 protesters ringed the conference over-shadowing his Tuesday speech.

Government ministers have faced UK Uncut activists chaining themselves to their cars, bikes, houses and constituency offices as disruption and protest is maximised.  But it is the anger towards prime minster Miliband that is most palpable.  The elation of the election victory a mere four months ago must now seem a very distant memory to our beleaguered PM.

The problem seems to boil down to a sense of voters feeling let down as Labour impose their austerity package.  Of course Miliband and Balls can point to a series of speeches and announcements that they made in opposition that they say made it clear that they would need to make cuts.  As Balls said in his interview with Andrew Marr last week:

“We said it would be tough and it is, five years of failed coalition policy that delivered negligible growth means that the government books were even worse than we thought.  Of course we were always clear with people that we would need to make some cuts but unfortunately in reality this means that we have a much tougher job on our hands than even we realised.”

But it appears that voters were not as clear about the Labour party’s intentions as Miliband and Balls now claim that they were.


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What about the deficit Ed?

04/10/2012, 07:00:26 AM

by Peter Watt

I didn’t see “the speech” as I was working.  I experienced it through the lens of twitter as I journeyed home from work at about 7pm.  The general consensus several hours after Ed had finished speaking seemed to be that it was a virtuoso performance with even fierce critics saying that the conference hall loved it.  I actually didn’t see any of the performance until the 10pm news and the clips that I saw seemed  pretty good to me.  What’s more, the faithful clearly loved it and the professional commentators either loved it or accepted that Ed had looked prime ministerial.

Wednesday morning’s radio and newspaper reports continued in this vein with Ed being lauded both for the performance and for the political positioning.  One nation Labour was seen as a clever and bold move that achieved two things.  Firstly it moved Labour tanks onto the Tory lawn.  And secondly it was a useful way of packaging Ed’s central message.  As he said in his post speech email to members:

“That means a one nation banking system: banks that work for all of us, not gamble our savings in casino operations.  It means a one nation skills system: a gold standard of vocational education which leads to many more apprenticeships which give opportunities to those who don’t go to university as well as those who do.

It means building a one nation economy with rules that encourage long-term investment.  It means keeping the United Kingdom together, making immigration work for everybody and recognising that at the moment it does not, and standing up for the values of the NHS.”

And, as someone who has written about the need for a vision and for Ed to work hard at being “prime ministerial” I am delighted.   Throw in the fact that Ed’s most effective attack lines were on governmental incompetence rather than on usual banal “nasty Tory” nonsense and I couldn’t have wanted for much more!

I know that others have said that it was policy light and that it didn’t actually say much.  But to be honest I think that at this stage of the game being seen as a credible potential PM and offering a bit of vision is more important than the odd policy.  Of course it was just one speech and was hardly watched by anyone.  But it will have increased Ed’s confidence, the Labour party’s confidence in him and will have unsettled an already wobbling Tory Party.  All in all, not a bad days work!

And the consequence of all of this is that the media will begin to take the prospect of prime minister Miliband seriously.  They will therefore begin to look more closely.  Here is the thing that team Miliband need to watch.  It is the one thing that he definitely didn’t mention in his speech.  In fact it has hardly been mentioned in Manchester at all.

The deficit.


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Half a minute Harris

29/03/2011, 11:00:04 AM

Episode 5: A distraction from the main event

You can catch up with previous episodes here:

Episode 1: Welcome, Uncut readers, to the mind of Tom Harris

Episode 2: Should we abstain on the welfare reform bill?

Episode 3: How’s that working out for you Polly?

Episode 4: Student visas… I’m with Theresa May on this one

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Saturday News Review

26/03/2011, 06:30:06 AM

All roads lead to London

More than a quarter of a million protesters against public sector cuts are expected to flood central London today in the biggest political demonstration for nearly a decade. Police sources, normally cautious about estimating numbers, said last night they were braced for up to 300,000 people to join the march – far higher than previous forecasts from TUC organisers. More than 800 coaches and at least 10 trains have been chartered to bring people to the capital from as far afield as Cornwall and Inverness. The Metropolitan police, under fire for their use of kettling in previous protests, said “a small but significant minority” plan to hijack the march to stage violent attacks. Organisers, however, insist it will be a peaceful family event. Union members are expected be joined by a broad coalition, from pensioners to doctors, families and first-time protesters to football supporters and anarchists. Ed Miliband said the government was dragging the country back to the “rotten” 1980s. Labour is calling today’s event the “march of the mainstream”. The opposition leader will address the rally – his biggest audience ever – in Hyde Park to set out Labour’s alternative to the cuts, accusing the government of fomenting the “politics of division” not seen since Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s. His remarks are reinforced by a Guardian/ICM poll that shows the public divided over the cuts. Of 1,014 people questioned this week, 35% believe the cuts go too far, 28% say they strike the right balance and 29% say they don’t go far enough; 8% don’t know. Two other polls put the balance more strongly against cuts. A YouGov survey for Unison found that 56% believe the cuts are too harsh and a ComRes poll for ITV showed that two-thirds think the government should reconsider its planned spending cuts programme. Just one in five disagree with that view. The TUC organisers of the event said they had organised a family-friendly demonstration with brass, jazz and Bollywood bands. But with unofficial feeder marches, sit-down protests and a takeover of Trafalgar Square planned, there was increasing nervousness that acts of peaceful civil disobedience could lead to stand-offs with police and outbursts of violence. – the Guardian (more…)

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Making childish noises at the unions is not the way to lead Labour, says Dan Hodges

16/09/2010, 09:00:56 AM

Re-watching Tony Blair and Andrew Marr earlier this week reminded me of Denis Healey’s classic put down of Geoffrey Howe, in which he compared an attack by the Tory grandee to being savaged by a dead sheep. Perhaps Marr had on off day, or maybe he’s mellowed since his forensic and rigorously sourced examination of Gordon Brown’s mental health. Whatever the reasons, it’s safe to assume that ‘Marr/Blair’ will not be appearing at our cinemas any time soon.

But one exchange was revealing. When asked about his dalliances with business, Blair replied:

“I had far more trouble, if I may say this to you, with union leaders demanding something back than I ever did with high value donors”. (more…)

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We must make sure the country is with us on the union fightback, says Ruth Smeeth

14/09/2010, 05:19:39 PM

For the 18 years of the last Tory government, the trade union movement faced attacks on its legitimacy, relevance and role in society.  Most of these attacks were based either on ignorance of the role that unions play, or outright hostility to the position of organised labour in the UK.  So when we finally beat the Tories in 1997, we faced a mixture of hope and optimism as activists in the labour movement.

From 1997  unions had a clear role in both the British political establishment and the workplace.  Amongst other things, they secured the adoption of the European Social Chapter, re-instatement of the GCHQ workers, legal rights to join trade unions, the adoption of a maximum working week and new legislation for agency & temporary workers.  These incredible achievements were hard fought and necessary for the development of the kind of society that all in the labour movement both want and require.

The 13 years since 1997 should, however, have been about more than just securing changes to employment and health and safety laws in the UK.  They should have also been a period of reflection for the trade union movement.  Our leaders should have been working together to ensure that whilst the going was good under a Labour government, they prepared for the future should the situation change.


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