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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Is Access to work helping disabled people or not ?

I myself use Access to work for my part time job as a office worker and find it a key part to my working life. I use it mainly for transport costs to get a taxi to work and back due to the bus's being infrequent and unreliable at best. The last time i reapplied for Access to work i was given a really tough line of questioning from one of the advisors really asking quite personal and almost hostile questions to find out if anyway i can reduce the costs for them. I have found it to be a very good service on the whole and am so keen for it to be continued and even extended as it needs to be if the government are really serious about helping disabled people back to work as they claim. Of course the tories are not about helping disabled people in fact they have made it harder for disabled people who do want to work if anything. A brilliant blog post over at DPAC - Disabled people against cuts a group i'm very close to and support wherever i can takes a look at the mess taht is the Access to work scheme. You can read this in full over at http://dpac.uk.net/2014/10/what-the-f-is-going-on-with-access-to-work-join-the-stopchanges2atw-campaign/ For me as a blind worker Access to work is a god sent but alot in this blog post rings true with me too. In this piece which i'm quoting from the author uses's the term deaf in their piece this as the author is deaf but the message being put is much the same for any disabled people who have experience of Access to work. "More and more people are asking what is happening with Access to Work, the programme that supports Deaf and disabled people to get into and stay in employment, as changes are making it harder and harder to use. Despite the government’s well publicised extra investment in the scheme Access to Work’s clear direction of travel is to cut individual packages, with the result that the employability of Deaf and disabled people is being seriously undermined. When the Tories closed the Remploy factories in 2011-2012 they said there was no place for segregated workplaces in modern society and the money used to fund the factories would be better spent supporting Deaf and disabled people to get into and stay in mainstream employment through the Access to Work programme. Over the past year, with the factory closures out of the way, changes introduced to the AtW programme have decreased eligibility, brought considerable distress and uncertainty to customers who had previously and successfully used the programme for many years, pushed Deaf and disabled people out of jobs and left others fearing for their futures. It is difficult to summarise all the changes: AtW is awarded on a discretionary ‘case by case’ basis and the programme has always denied the existence of any blanket rules for particular impairment groups. What we have seen emerging are some clear patterns around the cutting of packages, lack of information and hostility to AtW customers alongside growing inefficiency and cuts to AtW service delivery. The first clear pattern emerged with respect to Deaf customers who suddenly found themselves labelled as ‘fraudsters’. Individuals contacting AtW advisers, in some cases advisers they had had for many years were greeted with a completely different and hostile attitude. They were told ‘there are high levels of Access to Work fraud in the Deaf community’. Changes brought in including the notorious ’30 hour rule’, requiring Deaf customers using more than 30 hours of BSL interpreters per week to employ a salaried interpreter, have literally left Deaf people unable to continue in their jobs. The government has sought to justify what it is doing by pointing the finger at interpreters, blaming them for ‘costing too much’, meanwhile undermining what is a highly skilled and important profession. A particularly nasty move has been the introduction of retrospective decision making experienced by both Deaf and disabled people who have had their packages cut with the cuts being backdated after support costs have already been incurred. This situation has been compounded by the fact that has review notices are no longer sent out warning AtW customers when their packages are due for renewal which easily leads to people not realising their packages have ended. Deaf and disabled people have been left owing thousands of pounds and has left interpreters and support workers owed thousands of pounds, causing considerable hardship and distress. Successful appeals against changes to packages have been made but many people do not realise they have a right to appeal or how they would go about making a complaint. Others are too worried about losing the rest of their package to make a fuss. This is where the website DeafAtW has been invaluable, providing information and support on how to challenge decisions. There is a growing level of misinformation, confusion and chaos coming from AtW itself as a result of a restructuring that has seen a dramatic reduction in the numbers of contact centres and outsourcing. AtW invoices remain unpaid from months and months ago because the addresses of the payment centres changed but customers weren’t told. Meanwhile application backlogs have amassed. Given that Deaf and disabled people often cannot start a job until their AtW package is in place, yet can only make an application after an employment start date has been confirmed, this has presumably Deaf and disabled people unable to take up job offers. Money pledged by this government for the Access to Work budget has yet to appear. This was highlighted at the Work and Pension Select Committee oral evidence session when Remploy confirmed that the £80million per year “saved” from the closure of the factories hadn’t materialised in AtW support. There was also an additional £17million that hasn’t appeared. These two amounts would mean the AtW budget should have doubled in the past four years, yet cuts are being made. For a government that claims its welfare reform measures are all about supporting more people into employment, the changes to Access to Work appear counter-productive. Moreover, in a time of austerity, changes to the programme represent a cutting back of a scheme that actually makes money for the state: the Sayce report found that for every pound invested in Access to Work, £1.48 is recouped by the Treasury. But for anyone familiar with Tory welfare policies none of this comes as a surprise. Ill-thought through ideologically driven policies are seeking to reduce ‘dependency’ and dismantle the welfare state, removing social security from those that need it and creating situations that will end up costing more. While the Tories describe AtW as a ‘benefit’ and a dependency and fail to understand it as an investment, campaigners have beaten back some of the attacks. AtW eventually conceded that it was not realistic to expect employers to contribute the on costs for salaried interpreters under the 30 hour rule. In May the Minster for Disabled People announced a review into the 30 hour rule and the DWP Select Committee Inquiry agreed not only to take evidence on how changes were impacting on Deaf people but also extended the deadline for submissions whereas originally the inquiry had been intended to focus on employment support for people with mental health support needs and learning difficulties. Individual decisions have also been revised in the face of continued campaigning and challenges. More is needed though. We have yet to hear the outcome of the Minister’s review. Meanwhile we are hearing of cuts to AtW packages impacting ever wider, putting jobs at risk and pushing Deaf and disabled people out of employment. We need to step up our campaign to make sure information is available and accessible and people know what to do if they are impacted by the changes, to fight for the employment rights of Deaf and disabled people and to protect the terms and conditions of BSL interpreters and ensure we are not divided. StopChanges2ATW campaign open meeting – Thursday 23rd October 2014, 6 – 7.30pm, 336 Brixton Road, London, SW9 7AA. For more information read StopChanges2ATW and Inclusion London’s submissions to the DWP select committee inquiry: http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/ATW-ILs-%20and%20stop-changes2atw-respond-to-call-for-evidence

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Could UKIP run Tories close in Hertford and Stortford next may ?

Whilst I’ve been totally turned off by electoral politics and parties in general I do keep an eye on local politics and the moves and changes in our area. Even if a relatively minor area in terms of political significance our area of East Hertfordshire is one to watch I feel. Our current MP is Mark Prisk of the conservative party. Mark who took a while to getting elected failing twice in 92 and 97 eventually was elected in Hertford and Stortford. He was finally elected as the Conservative MP for the constituency of Hertford and Stortford in 2001. Since gaining his seat at Westminster, he has been marked for ministerial office in a future Tory government. He has been promoted from the backbenches to serve at various points as Shadow Financial Secretary, Shadow Minister for Economic Affairs, an opposition whip and Shadow Minister for Business and Enterprise. He is author of several pamphlets on urban design. Currently Mark Prisk and the Tories hold the seat In East Herts with a big majority of 15,437. I would imagine Mark will regain his seat next year but could be run close if UKIP put up a good campaign on the ground. This is a tory stronghold with tories in power in all of the town councils and county councils even if nearby bigger towns of Stevenage and Harlow both have labour councils they both have marginal seats where labour will be looking to take back in 2015. Looking at wider trends across the country and how UKIP are gaining ground on both labour and Tories in the North and the south but not in London yet interestingly I may cover why in a future post. But UKIP who will be fighting a by election in Rochester and Strood on November 20th due to the defection of Conservative MP Mark Reckless to UKIP may see the UKIP really start uping their game on to a new level. Anyone who thought UKIP would just be a flash in the pan may need to think again. Whilst a lot of UKIP voters will be voting them as a protest vote to kick the other major parties a lot are disaffected tories who feel the tories have gone soft on certain issues such as immigration which is a big policy area for UKIP and often makes up the backbone of their politics which also ties into their Eurosceptism . Recent by elections have seen UKIP run labour and the Tories close and even gaining their first MP in the name of Douglas Carswell in Claction earlier this month returning him as a MP with a big majority of 12,404 . Could UKIP do the same in similar areas in the coming elections ? I do think so. Running labour close in a labour stronghold shocked many who felt UKIP were just a threat to the Tories recent months have shown this isn’t always the case. In the months other by-election, Labour held on to Heywood and Middleton but UKIP slashed its majority to 617. Mr. Farage told BBC Breakfast UKIP could hold the balance of power after next year's general election. A worrying thought if ever there was one. So could UKIP run the Tories close in Hertford and Stortford next year? I dont see why not. Mark Prisk is a well known Tory and well known in the area there is not much you can say against him personally apart from he is a Tory and goes along with their thinking and disregard for the poor. I have emailed him before and always had a reply even if I often disagree with his views. UKIP last time out in 2010 in East Herts gained 1,716 votes which was poor but have seen their vote share rocket in recent by elections in comparison to their showings last time around. The political ground has changed and UKIP are feeling the benefits so far as the country slips further to the right. Any thought that the left would do well out of a downturn in the economy and peoples lives has long since been proved wrong in fact it very much has benifited the right in the UK anyway. As for UKIP in East Herts they seem to be on the ball in terms of tracking down the Tories and aiming fire at the local Tories and their plans for development which is promised to increase our population considerably in the coming decades. I do think there is a base for UKIP to build on in East Herts there has been a history of Eurosceptic parties and thinking in the area we even had a party calling themselves the referendum party who claimed to have 50 thousand members back in 1996 who gained 2,105 votes which for a new party back in 97 isn’t too bad given the norm for newly formed smaller parties. UKIP can do well in East Herts and the threat is very real. Those who detest their form of politics must be aware of them and take them on in a big way. A piece from the Hertfordshire Mercury our local paper talks on UKIP selecting its candidate to take on Mark Prisk next year I quote below http://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/UKIP-selects-Hertford-Stortford-parliamentary/story-23035085-detail/story.html " L A teacher who vows to fight for sustainable development and a better life for people on minimum wage has been selected as a candidate for UKIP in next year’s election. Adrian Baker, of Wareside, will fight for the Hertford and Stortford parliamentary seat next May. He said: “I know this is a strong Conservative area, and that we have a fight on our hands, but I welcome that challenge – especially in these exciting times where the old, failing, two-party sy stem is collapsing. “The simple truth is that both the Conservative and Labour parties have let the people of East Herts down. “People are seeing through Cameron's false promises on Europe, and are fed up with his inability to control immigration which is leading to mass development of the Green Belt, no more so than within East Herts where more than 15,000 new homes are proposed to be built.” He praised UKIP’s commitment for everybody on the minimum wage to be lifted out of paying income tax. On local issues he said: On local issues Adrian said, “We have had a massive building programme foisted on East Herts with over 15,000 new houses planned. “Nobody is listening to residents’ concerns or considering the effects on local infrastructure. “Incumbent MP, Mark Prisk, who has recently taken up a second job advising a development company, has been silent whilst bulldozers are poised to dig up our green fields around Hertford, Ware, Sawbridgeworth and Bishop’s Stortford, and our villages and towns are going to lose their rural feel as more and more building takes place. “I'll fight against unsustainable development in our area, but with net migration of 250,000 people into the UK last year alone, the pressure on our Green Belt will remain whilst the Tory government has an open-door border policy. “Until we take back control of our borders, the pressures on housing will never go away.” UKIP’s East Herts District Council Election campaign manager, Jim Boodrie, said: “With his dedication, and knowledge of the area, Adrian is the right candidate not only to lead our parliamentary election campaign, but also to spearhead the election of UKIP members to the East Herts District Council next May”

Sunday, 19 October 2014

UK the agony and the ecstasy

Reblogged from Michael Roberts blog at http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/uk-the-agony-and-the-ecstasy/ The Bank of England chief economist certainly put the cat among the pigeons with his speech on the British economy on Friday (http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/speeches/2014/speech764.pdf). Andy Haldane was ‘off message’ from the story painted by his boss, the useless, confusing and grotesquely overpaid Mark Carney (see my post https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/a-blind-guide-dog). For months Carney has been going around hinting that the BoE would hike interest rates soon because the UK economy was booming and he wanted to control the racy property market and avoid rising inflation (instead inflation is now slowing fast!). In contrast, Haldane says that he is “gloomier” about the prospects for the economy than he was a few months ago and thinks that rates will have to stay lower for longer. Now Haldane has ‘form’ in being off message and not following the banker’s line. He even spoke to the Occupy movement in the days of the crisis, suggesting that they had plenty of things to complain about and that the banking system was to blame and needed radical reform (see my post https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/the-value-of-banking-according-to-mark-carney-and-alan-greenspan/). A little bit more on message was Haldane’s warning that Britain was vulnerable to another round of the Eurozone crisis. This is the line adopted by the UK’s conservative finance minister, George Osborne, who has already suggested any slump in Europe would be the excuse for the downturn in the so-called boom in the UK economy – forecast to be the fastest growing in the G7 this year (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/draghis-answer-to-euro-depression/). However, Haldane went off message again in his so-called Twin Peaks speech, when he outlined the fault-lines in the UK economy: falling real-wage growth and flat-lining productivity. On wages, Haldane was brutal: “Growth in real wages has been negative for all bar three of the past 74 months. The cumulative fall in real wages since their pre-recession peak is around 10%. As best we can tell, the length and depth of this fall is unprecedented since at least the mid-1800s! This has been a jobs-rich, but pay-poor, recovery.” Haldane has constructed what he called his ‘agony index': a simple index of real wages, real interest rates and productivity growth. In this blog, I have referred to a ‘misery index’, the sum of the unemployment rate and inflation, as an indicator of misery for the average household (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/britains-misery-index/). But in an economy like the UK or the US, where unemployment and inflation have been falling but real wages have collapsed along with productivity and pension returns, Haldane’s agony index is way better. Haldane’s index shows that the British people and the economy have been in ‘agony’ for the longest time since the 1800s, with the exception of world wars and the early 1970s. This is not the sort of thing that the government and Haldane’s boss, Carney, want to hear. But as Haldane said: “The BoE, in common with every other mainstream forecaster, has been forecasting sunshine tomorrow in every year since 2008 – that is, rising real wages, productivity and real interest rates. The heatwave has failed to materialise. The timing of the upturn has been repeatedly put back.” Instead it was a mixed picture of ‘twin peaks’ of agony for average households and ecstasy for richer ones. To add to Haldane’s argument and refuting the line of the government that the British economy is on the road to sustained recovery and fast growth, official figures on productivity growth in the major economies since the Great Recession have been released. Output per hour in the UK was 17% below the average for the rest of the major G7 industrialised economies in 2013, the widest productivity gap since 1992. On an output per worker basis, UK productivity was 19% below the average for the rest of the G7 in 2013. And it is getting worse. UK output per hour fell slightly in 2013 compared with 2012, contrasting with an increase of 1.0% across the rest of the G7. UK productivity levels are about the same as in 2007, but 15% below where they ought to be if pre-crisis productivity growth had continued. And productivity growth matters if overall economic growth is to be sustained. Real GDP growth is a combination of employment growth and productivity growth (output per worker). Employment growth in the UK even with wholesale immigration (and that is going to stopped by a re-elected Tory government) is unlikely to be higher than 1% a year. So to achieve sustained 3% real GDP growth, the minimum necessary to get unemployment down further, reduce the budget deficit and government debt and start to raise real incomes, productivity growth must be at least 2% a year. But instead it is falling. I have discussed the reason for these chronically bad productivity figures in previous posts (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/britain-is-booming/). It’s been a combination of the growth of low value-added self-employment (taxi drivers, cleaners, odd jobbers etc), low skilled part-time, temporary and full-time jobs (Asda, McDonalds, Starbucks etc) and, above all, the lack of new investment in technology to boost the productivity of those working. UK business investment remains in the doldrums, while public sector investment has collapsed (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/is-the-uks-investment-strike-over/). What Haldane did not say was why there had been such the fall in real wages and a rise in his agony index. It’s because rather than investment to raise productivity, British capital has opted to squeeze wages and cut costs to try and restore profitability. You see, contrary to the view of neoclassical and Keynesian economics alike, productivity and profitability are not the same thing – indeed they are often contradictory. Squeezing wages has boosted the rate of exploitation (and raised levels of inequality). But this has failed to raise UK profitability much. The way to raise profits is by new labour-shedding technology that increases productivity and lowers costs. But British capital is reluctant to invest when it is still burdened with spare capacity in old technology and corporate debt. That needs to be liquidated first – in another slump. There is more agony to come yet.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Trade unions the left and strikes and no strikes this week

In this post I wil examine the left and its attitude towards strikes and how they are failing workers as leaders in certain unions and are well off track in others. In this weeks Weekly Worker a online and I think paper of the CPGB who I don’t agree with on a lot of things often stumble across something which is spot on and this weeks article on Unison and the left is spot on in regards to this weeks strikes and non strikes as some turned out to be. “Well, it did not take much for the union tops to postpone local government strike action on October 14. Indeed it was not even a firm offer - merely a “proposal” that Unison had previously rejected, but has now been dressed up as an improvement. In the face of this there have been some rather stupid comments by sections of the left, to the effect that the union leaders sold out, while the mass of the membership was chomping at the bit. For example, a member of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, identified only as “a Unison local government member”, asserts that there had been “a determined two-week campaign by the bureaucracy to extinguish a fighting mood over pay”.1 As for the Socialist Workers Party, it stated: “It was wrong to call the strike off …. We should demand the strikes are reinstated and coordinated with other public-sector unions where possible.”2 Unfortunately, however, the reality is that it has been very difficult to build up any enthusiasm for strike action despite the wishful thinking of large parts of the left. There is now to be a double consultation on the revised proposal. Unison, Unite and the GMB will put it to their members next week, while the Local Government Association will consult its affiliates. The prospect for a bad deal is high, but there are reasons other than pay to reject this proposal despite our weak position. There are rumours that the bureaucracy has conceded in principle various proposals that will not feature in the consultation with union members. Proposals that fit in entirely with the employers’ workforce strategy, but grant the unions something they desperately want: their feet under the negotiating table. There have been accusations of deliberate misinformation on the part of Unison’s Heather Wakefield in the run-up to the proposed strike. She had claimed that Unite had pulled out of the October 14 action, while the GMB was wavering, and it was thought that delegates at Unison regional briefings would be presented with a motion to suspend the strike. However, at the October 9 London briefing the Wakefield statement was withdrawn and delegates were informed that Unite and GMB were definitely on board and so all three unions would be out. A majority of London delegates wanted the strike to go ahead and thought they could deliver some kind of successful action in the capital, even if some thought it would be weaker than the July 10 strike. It seems that, even whilst the London meeting was taking place, a postponement of the strike was being discussed with the employers. Later that same day it was announced that the strike was off.3 Despite our own weak position and only the remote prospect of achieving any movement on pay, I felt that the Tuesday actionshould have gone ahead. It was part of a coordinated campaign across large sections of the public service that culminates with the TUC demonstration on October 18. It would also have acted as a morale boost for NHS strikers, including members of unions calling industrial action for the first time, who had taken part in a four-hour action on the Monday. As things stand, the employers have completely outmanoeuvred the unions and are clearly confident of achieving everything they want - for no more than they originally offered and probably less than they budgeted for. They look to be on target for a win, win, win. However, as usual, the left seems incapable of acknowledging the strength of the employers and their strategic and tactical superiority. Neither do they acknowledge the parlous state of our organisations and the widespread belief that we are not in a position to defend past gains. Instead the left just seems to hope that workers’ lack of confidence will be overcome if only we got a fighting lead from the union tops. Eschewing a proper analysis that might reveal the employers’ strengths and our own weaknesses, it blames it all on the bureaucracy. The offensive against the working class has progressed over the last 25 years without let-up. Objectively the conditions for a fightback ought to be good, but the strike-happy left routinely and repetitively commits the same errors and is consequently ignored by the vast majority of workers. They just do not buy the aimless, ultra-enthusiastic posturing that proffers a fantasy rather than a sober assessment of what is and is not possible, given both the subjective and objective conditions. Workers want and need the truth, not patronising nonsense. The left, as epitomised by the two largest organisations, the SWP and SPEW, have an excuse for a strategy. It is this: enthuse and embolden the workers with good-news stories about action - any action, but preferably a strike - because they will then learn in struggle and come to accept the leadership of the ‘revolutionaries’. This elitist approach leads these organisations to vastly exaggerate and put a gloss on everything, effectively to trick the workers into taking action and, hopefully, recruiting some of them. The bullshit has been thoroughly internalised so that many rank-and-file members of the SWP and SPEW actually believe the crap that they come out with. I remember a disastrous local strike action a few years back, when 90% of workers crossed the picket line. An unmitigated disaster, yet it was described by one leftwing blogger as “well supported”, “fantastic” and “a great success”. She even posted a photo of about 12 forlorn demonstrators standing outside the town hall as proof positive that we had all done very well indeed. In a subsequent ‘assessment’ of that strike SWP and SPEW members were unable to keep up the pretence when confronted with undeniable facts, but they quickly resorted to that other excuse: “We recruited 50 members to the union,” they proudly said - only to be told that we also lost an equal number as a direct consequence of the foolish action. Did they learn anything? Unfortunately no. We still get the same over-enthusiastic, unrealistic, puerile nonsense. Facts may be uncomfortable, but you need them to plan anything useful. There is a disconnect between the unions and their members. You can see it in ballots, inquorate and poorly attended meetings, insufficient stewards and health and safety reps, and in a host of other areas. Representative democracy barely exists and the left is entrenched within a hollowed-out shell of an organisation. They take the easy road, accommodating to that weakness and lack of democracy which substitutes for workers’ self-organisation, whilst exhorting the union tops to do better and blaming them when they don’t. It is important to understand the nature of the current situation. We are under relentless attack from all angles, in every area of life. All the forces of the state and most of the employers are determined to weaken, sideline and neuter the unions. On our side the unions have resorted to the provision of largely useless ‘services’ and quick fixes through amalgamations, while a declining, ever fragmenting left seems incapable of learning anything. There will be a turn-around, but only if we make it happen. We are not yet sufficiently organised and equipped to mount a counteroffensive. Notwithstanding the odd, isolated victory here and there, the current strategy has to be defensive: maintaining, organising and cohering forces, so that we are able to mount a counteroffensive when we are ready. We have to overcome the disconnect and that means being honest and forthright.” Extracts in quotation marks from this article over at the Weekly Worker publication of the CPGB. http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1030/unison-left-carry-on-regardless/ Notes 1. www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/19481. 2. Socialist Worker October 14. 3. The proposal is available at www.unison.org.uk/njc-14-51.

Monday, 13 October 2014

support the NHS workers out on strike today

Today see's many NHS workers including midwives and vital workers who keep us healthy everyday helping our sick and injured back to healthiness again. The old phrase if you pay peanuts you get monkeys could not be more relevant today. If you pay your staff very little does not expect them to feel valued and appreciated for their work they do. Many NHS workers work very long shifts and have to endure some very challenging working conditions. Take an ambulance driver and crew they do not know what they are turning up to when called out. They could make the difference between saving someone’s life or not. I was born in a NHS hospital and have been helped out allot when I’ve had trouble or been ill in the past. The level of support I received when I was losing my sight was very touching you got the feeling these people really do care about others and want to help others even if their pay is not great. In a fantastic article posted on LibCom about why NHS workers should strike this week puts it brilliantly "The privatisation of the NHS, dismantling of the welfare state, and attacks on terms and conditions mean that nurses are facing the biggest battle in their history. The time for negotiation has finished. So what are you going to do? I recall vividly a conversation with a colleague several years ago. The discussion was about job cuts, unsafe staffing levels, and pay. She said to me, “You are a nurse, you should never strike”. Industrial action of any description was not on the cards, it was just a general chat. That statement has stuck with me ever since, and with the upcoming public sector strikes, the issues of nurses and industrial action is now back on the agenda. I will be on strike on the 30th, but not as a nurse as. I left clinical practice to work in nurse education earlier this year. However, I will always be a nurse first and foremost. After recently speaking to friends and former colleagues, it is clear that the same old debates about striking and industrial action are being discussed. The RCN which represents the bulk of registered nurses in the UK (400,000) has stated that it will ballot for industrial action in January if the government does not back down on its pension reforms. The RCN has many qualities; it has other roles than just being a trade union, and does a very good job. However, as a trade union it is generally weak, and about as un-militant as you can get. To be fair though, it never claims to be anything else. It has enjoyed comfortable relationships with governments, and its membership is seen as less militant that the nurses who are with UNISON. This will be the first time in its history that they will have balloted for industrial action, and judging by debate within the media between the government and the RCN, there is definitely a souring of the relationship, which can only be a good thing. The government will not back down, so when the ballot goes ahead, I am absolutely positive that they will vote for strike action. The result may be closer than other unions, but I am confident it will be passed. What does this then mean for nurses, patients, and the government? The first issue takes me back to my colleagues comment about not striking. Why shouldn’t nurses strike? Well, “our first priority should be our patients”. I agree, however, what are nurses supposed to do when employers and governments do not provide adequate staffing or funding, or close services that are desperately needed, or make attempts to privatise the NHS? Negotiation can only go so far. To be completely passive is not in the interest of any patient who requires service that is closing. No one is suggesting that NHS be completely shut down. Nurses would provide a skeleton service during a strike. They would not leave people at risk of harm. I say this not just as a nurse, but as a human being. Clearly striking is not the only type of action available, and there other just as effective actions that could be taken. The NHS is a huge paper based bureaucracy, with paperwork for everything. It also relies on the constant goodwill of nurses, working through breaks, staying behind to support busy colleagues (unpaid). Nurses could withdraw their unpaid labour, and refused to complete anything but paperwork specifically relating to patient care, they could generally work to rule. I have never met a nurse’s who does not carry out work that is not within their job description. So striking is not the only option, but whatever action is taken, patients would not be left at risk. The moral argument of nurses not striking does not hold any water for me. In fact, I would argue that it is immoral not to take action, when an employer or government are implementing changes that will have a negative impact on patient care. The next argument that is thrown up is, “what about the public perception of nurses”. And what about, “upholding the reputation of the profession”? I would refer anyone using this argument to the last paragraph. It is not as if nurses go on strike in this country very often is it? There has to be a line that when it is crossed, nurses should say, ‘enough is enough’. I always remember many nurses saying, I wouldn’t strike for pay, but if they ever went after my pension I definitely would. Well guess what? With regards to the public perception of nurse’s striking, I would argue that the vast majority of the public would support them. I feel that the public are aware that nurses are not repeat strikers, and would possibly take the attitude that things must be bad if nurses strike. Furthermore, the public pressure that a government would face would increase if nurses’ took action, possibly shortening the duration of any dispute. What made me so angry was the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) the governing professional body for nurses, making a statement last month, stating that “any nurse who went on strike would be in violation of the professional code of conduct” and would possibly struck of the register and lose their career. This was a disgraceful stance to take, no doubt pressured by the government to make those comments. They quickly changed that statement following uproar amongst nurses. They anticipated many people caving in due to the threat of a fitness to practice panel, but it had the opposite effect, nurses became angrier. For me, the old arguments of nurses and industrial action are just that, old. My patients are my first priority, and the action that is sometimes needed to effectively care and treat someone, stretches beyond providing nursing care. I cannot provide sufficient care if a I have fewer colleagues than needed, or if the service I work for closes, or if we cannot recruit nurses because no one wants to train anymore, or if the government refuse to fund certain treatments, or if the government sells of the NHS, or allows the market to break it up. If nurses genuinely want to make the patient their first priority they should bloody well stand up for what is right, and not swallow the nonsense that has kept nurses subservient for the past century. Everything I have said is not based on the fact that I am an anarcho-syndicalist or indeed political in any way. It is based on having a desire to provide the care and treatment that I believe should be provided. It is about time nurses fought back. They are far and away the biggest staff group within the NHS and healthcare, and their potential influence and impact cannot be underestimated. They are a sleeping giant that needs to wake, and quickly. If they do not, they will one day wake to find the NHS renamed ABC healthcare, and they will no longer be able to provide effective care, or make patients their first priority. Their first priority will then be £ sign! Another thing the nurse who I mentioned earlier said to me was, “what would Florence Nightingale say about it all”. Well, I never met her, as she was a bit before my time. However, with what I know about her I suspect she would have said something along the lines of, “If you want to make patients your first priority you cannot allow the government to sell off the NHS, and you cannot allow them to dismantle the public sector or welfare state. Negotiation has been tried and failed. It is time to get around your workplaces, and organise!!!!!” Posted By Working class s... Nov 23 2011 11:34 With thanks and link to original post at http://libcom.org/blog/why-nurses-should-take-industrial-action-23112011

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Why UKIP is gaining ground and why the left is no where to be seen

Last nights win and close second win for UKIP should be a wake up call for us all. While UKIP has come far in 20 + years the left if anything has gone backwards and here I will explain why. UKIP are not just a protest vote and cannot be under estimated as much of the current left are doing. We must be awake and alert to their advance. I confidently predict if Labour form the next government which seems most likely although this could be wrong just going by current polling figures. Labour will form a government like no other labour go they will embark on a quest of austerity and carrying on where the Tories and lib dems will leave off. This is not to rule out the Tories and lib Dems who will have a say in who forms the next gov still. This will benefit UKIP who are posing as the anti establishment and the protest vote of the day so far and are doing well with that if we’re all honest. Much of the left appear blinded by UKIP and cannot see how they will grow in this coming period. Nigel Forage who is the main man of UKIP so far has positioned himself cleverly and is able to pick up disillusioned mainly Tory but also labour voters of the north which should send shockwaves down all sides of the left that how he is able to get away with this. Well let me spell it out for those who cannot see such things. UKIP is not going away anytime soon anyone who thinks they are just a flash in the pan and will go away once the general election comes into focus will be sadly mistaken I feel. I am no supporter of UKIP and it’s hard to pin them down what they are and what they stand for. Some on the left think they are fully fascist and racist and should be no platformed others are a bit more wary and see them more than just far right nutters and actually can see them becoming the main party on the right in UK politics in the coming period given the secular decline of the Conservatives. Too many UKIP are anti European and anti immigration. But delving closer into their policies which I advise all to do if they can would appear not so anti establishment as they may like to make out. In fact I’d go as far as to say they are Tories on steroids who want to take back the right as their own and start afresh as an independent Great Britain isolated from the rest of Europe. As far as I can see the left in the United Kingdom are failing at opposing them and in some case’s going along with what they say. Take the left nationalist no to EU yes to democracy the CPB and the socialist party backed by RMT stood for in this years and also 2009’s European elections agrees with the right in that too many workers are heading to these shores and something must be done about it. This is classic left nationalism which appeals to very few on the left as it stands and is rightly rejected by the working class who vote for this. No to EU is a disaster and a car crash and I’m glad it is being tossed about like a boat in a storm and will eventually be ship wrecked with any luck. I am neither for the EU or against it to be honest I don’t know enough about the inn’s and out’s of such things but I am sure I will learn about such things given time. At present no left force in Britain gets how UKIP are doing so well. Some say they are just racist and should be ignored. Others engage with them and find themselves floundering as UKIP are able to put forward a good anti austerity argument as to why we should leave the EU. This will be put out very clearly in 2017 if we do go for an in/out referendum which the Tories are fully signed up to. A lot of people have under estimated UKIP and their influence back in the main 3 parties and are rightly or wrongly hoovering up votes for those desperate for something different however it looks and sounds. The left in Britain in or out of the labour party have no answers to the UKIP march on power the country appears to be heading more and more to the right and this worries me deeply with no electoral left to talk of with TUSC only being trotted out in local elections and no to EU in the recent European elections just gone. Who can be under any illusion that the left get UKIP and know how to take it on. Quite frankly the left are floundering and have no answers to the current crisis of capitalism apart from the old tired out dogma’s of nationalisation which to me is supporting the idea of state capitalism. For me having been in a trotskyist group and seeing for myself its failings and lack of democracy it is no wonder that now no party on the left be it left or far left can put forward any sort of alternative to the current mire we found ourselves in. Simply put the left have vacated the battle ground in favour of minor concessions just to take their place in securing capitalisms long term future which will stabilise if nothing will rock yet again. Capitalism is never far from the next crisis yet the left in the UK are blinded by their own contradictions and cannot see beyond the end of their noses. We need an alternative that will put the working class first and not rely on any so called leaders of our movement. As workers we have the power to change society if we so wished. Let’s start here in understanding where we are and beyond. UKIP can be pushed back if the left actually get to gripes with what they are. For the left seeing voters leave to join UKIP is beyond them but instead of blaming them and writing those off maybe try to chat to them ask how things could be better and how. There is a world to win out there all the best

Why no one should work with Steve Hedley and full support to Caroline Leneghan

I have been following this case closely in the last year and beyond to be honest. I have to confess I was a socialist party member when none other than Steve Hedley at Socialism a grand event put on by the Socialist party in early november to sure up their power and so on announced he was a member this cannot go unnoticed. I heard Steve Hedley on stage declare himself a socialist party member and from here on in despite what put out by the party itself its clear to me they have always supported Steve in and out of politics and the subsequent events they stand by unfortunately. This was not the main reason I left the SP it certainly did not encourage me to stay any longer than I had to however. I am deeply suspicious of so called trotskyist groups now including the two main organisation in that span of thinking in the UK the SWP and the SP who when it comes down to it are just as bad as each other. If one claims to be more democratic than the other is simply coincidence as for me whiter they saw Russia as state capitalist or not the same ideas following that have been consistent even if either party will like to admit as much. I will now quote from Libcom.org the full statement by the guy who was representing Caroline Caroline Leneghan in the RMT investigation against Steve Hedley and this will outline why Steve still has a case to anser to and why the wider left must have nothing to do with him and his ilk again. Steve Hedley: not “cleared of domestic violence” with a case still to answer - Andy Littlechild “Steve Hedley was not cleared of domestic violence and still has a case to answer according to the RMT rep representing his former partner in her complaint of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. I’m writing the following statement as the RMT rep representing Caroline Leneghan in relation to her complaint of physical, emotional and verbal abuse by Steve Hedley RMT Assistant General Secretary. I’ve just returned from a week away on holiday to discover the initial stage of the unions investigation completed, with an unsatisfactory outcome of no further action (investigation) to take place, and a statement from Steve Hedley that I believe as Caroline’s rep to be misleading. My statement below is solely based on this statement, all my comments are relating to its contents. To date I have refrained from involvement in the large amount of internet content in relation to her case; and have kept my role as her rep between those who were involved within the RMT. Apart from that I have only disclosed my involvement to the 2 RMT “officials” whom I directly report to in order to be accountable, maintaining strict confidentiality around the whole issue in all respects. My intention here is to set the record straight following Steve Hedley’s recent statement and other similar internet posts from other people/groups which are inaccurate, and to put forward the facts so people are in possession of them. I’m not a member of political group seeking to make politically motivated (or any other) attacks on Steve Hedley or the RMT; I’m Caroline Leneghan’s RMT rep. Verbal, Cyber and Threats of violence Firstly, in light of his statement; I’d like to make it clear that neither Caroline nor myself or any other of her friends have at anytime known to her took part in abuse or threats of violence etc. to Steve Hedley or any members of his family. If anyone has done that I condemn it completely. Caroline Leneghan’s Allegations & Evidence You can read Caroline’s allegations in her opening post above, and view the photos of her injuries. In his statement, Steve Hedley rightly says that Caroline Leneghan’s complaint was submitted a year after the event (with the implication that this makes it less worthy of belief?!). In fact this is a fairly common occurrence with women reporting domestic abuse, for reasons that are well documented and understood: misplaced loyalty, the belief the abuser will change, fear of retaliation or not being believed, and along with even telling others at the time that facial injuries are “an accident” to protect an abuser are symptoms in themselves of being a victim of domestic violence. Steve Hedley claims that Caroline’s allegations are unfounded and her photographic evidence “dubious”, and due to this “no further action” was the outcome of the police investigation. This is somewhat misleading; the police officer dealing with her complaint stated in writing to her: “….there is a high chance of conviction if this matter was to be taken to Court. We would be able to say that your account remains that you were assaulted and that we have no reason to suspect you made the matter up. In the same vein we would say Steve was not exonerated. It was simply that the matter was not capable of proof at Court. Both yourself and Steve accept the injuries you received were as a result of an incident between the two of you. You claim to have been assaulted and Steve claimed self defence as a result of you attacking him. In the absence of any witnesses or background history we couldn’t prove the matter either way. This coupled with the injuries you received being of a CPS charging standard of common assault meant that we have only 6 months from the incident to bring the matter before a Court. This had lapsed prior to initial report”. So the reality is that far from her “claims being unfounded and her evidence dubious” as put forward in Steve Hedley’s statement, Caroline’s allegations to the police weren’t taken any further due to the CPS’ procedural limits on timescales for cases to go to court. Previously during the RMT enquiry I had to challenge the exact same misrepresentation of the police investigation that Steve Hedley put forward. *(I have documented evidence to support this). RMT’s “Exhaustive Investigation” Similarly; Steve Hedley’s statement puts forward that the RMT following an “exhaustive investigation” said he had “no case to answer”. Again, you can read for yourself in her opening post above the manner in which the enquiry was conducted by RMT, and there are 2 facts that need to also be explained here: 1. The RMT procedure for complaints is adhoc, (i.e. not a written down), but broadly equated to the General Secretary instructing the Senior Assistant General Secretary to conduct “an enquiry” into Caroline’s complaint against Steve Hedley (2nd Assistant General Secretary). Upon concluding his enquiry; the Senior AGS presented his enquiry report to the General Secretary for him to decide whether or not to submit it to the RMT Council of Executives for a full investigation to be undertaken. The General Secretaries decision was NOT to submit Caroline’s complaint to the RMT Executive Council, and no full investigation was undertaken. 2. The reason given to Caroline by the General Secretary for not instructing the Executive Council to undertake a full investigation was that her RMT membership did not cover the date/time the incident took place, and also due to a lack of corroborating evidence (which I believe may be alluding to no witnesses being willing to come forward?). However, the General Secretary stated that “both you and Steve Hedley agree an incident took place”. In closing; the General Secretary advised that “I will not be taking any further action on this matter”. At no point was the dropping of Caroline’s complaint by the General Secretary stated as because Steve Hedley “had no case to answer” as claimed by him in his statement! *(I have documented evidence to support this). Threatening Texts from Caroline Leneghan Caroline texted Steve around the general time of their relationship break up, though I’m not aware of their content apart from the one text read to us during the enquiry. While the texts may be of a particularly emotional nature, I would put it that texts sent by people during a break up generally are of an emotional nature and that it is unremarkable in its obviousness. In relation to this same text referred by Steve Hedley in his statement where Caroline states “you’re going down Steve” or something similar; this had another meaning than that implied by Steve of “I’m going to get you”!. As Caroline explained at the time, the context was “you will be found out” / “you will not get away with it” (i.e. beating her up). Caroline Leneghan and me as her rep were not read any other texts that I remember(?), and Caroline refutes sending “hundreds of threatening texts” in the manner claimed by Steve Hedley. Caroline Leneghan’s “Mental Health Problems” Caroline like many people (national average is 25% of the population suffer from a mental health issue during their lives) has suffered with mental health issues; in her youth she self-harmed, and today copes with depression. She is not a violent person and has no history of violence towards anyone (a history of self-harm (superficial cutting as teenager) is the exact opposite of outward violence. The implication in the way Steve Hedley has put forward “mental health issues” so prominently seems to be aimed at saying that people with common mental health issues are violent and have a tendency towards violence; this serves to demonise, stigmatise and stereotype people with mental health difficulties, in particular for women for who this stereotype is more problematic. Some of the factual details above of Caroline Leneghan’s mental health history were disclosed to Steve by her when they were happier, as couples do sharing and being intimate together. Using this evidence of Caroline’s mental health along with allegations of assault by Caroline Leneghan on himself that she totally refutes, is an irresponsible and gross misrepresentation of the experience of people that suffer with mental health issues such as depression. Caroline’s complaint was a straight forward matter of her being assaulted by Steve Hedley, which he either did or didn’t do; her mental health has nothing to do with the complaint that she raised. However, it seems the case that Steve Hedley believes it important to repeatedly portray Caroline as a “mental case”; which similarly I have had to previously challenge during the initial RMT enquiry. *(I have documented evidence to support this). Appeal to the RMT Executive Council Despite his misleading claims in his statement that he had been cleared by both the police and the RMT of domestic violence, there is still also a case remaining for Steve Hedley answer. Caroline Leneghan has submitted her request for an appeal against the decision of the RMT GS. She was advised by reply that her request for an appeal will go before the RMT Executive Council. Posted By libcom Apr 9 2013 15:13 https://libcom.org/news/steve-hedley-not-cleared-domestic-violence-case-still-answer-08042013