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Responding to the piece broadcast by Sky News in relation to the Birmingham hotel, conference and education facility built for Unite the union, the union said:
“Unfortunately, Sky News has let itself and it viewers down by producing and broadcasting a deeply misleading report on our new conference hotel and education facility in Birmingham.
“The report is inaccurate from the outset. The roots of the story are not in Liverpool but lie firmly within the union’s democratic decision-making body, our Executive Council, which gave the go-ahead to embark on this wonderful facility for our members nearly a decade ago in 2012.
“The insinuation that Unite is somehow caught up in an entirely unrelated series of events in Liverpool is nothing other than a shallow attack on our union, but is also an insult to all those who worked on this world-class facility, as well as to the great people and city of Liverpool who are too often demonised by our lazy media.
“It seems that Sky News prefers guilt by association over the facts.
“The truth of the matter is that this is old news, reheated with not a single new fact in order to attack our union, using underhand tactics, innuendo and persons hostile to our union. This is not journalism of which Sky can be proud.
“Every step of the way, the production of this complex was overseen by independent surveyors and architects. Accountability was built into the process to ensure that at every stage of this development we got value for this union’s money. All this was overseen by our democratically-elected, independent 62-strong Executive Council. It is insulting in the extreme to infer that their oversight is at fault and should be somehow replaced by another body. This is the body elected by our members to keep this union properly run and accountable, and they do this superbly.
“The result is a tremendous facility for use by working people in this country. It is an incredible asset for our union, valued by an independent auditor at cost price now but recognised as a facility that will only increase in value. It will produce huge amounts of income in revenue for our union, which will be reinvested in services and support for our members, and save the union millions a year alone in conference costs.
” Those in any doubt of the wisdom of this development need only compare it to similar projects in our cities to see for themselves what a sensible investment this development is for our union. This facility is an investment for shop stewards and 1.2 million working people by their union, because we their best interests are our driving force.
“Unite is proud of this amazing facility, and proud to be a union that wants the best for our members. We bow to nobody, and certainly not to a hostile media, in our dedication to delivering the best to our members.”
London’s biggest trade union, Unite, has slammed the ‘abysmal’ decision to remove the only male Afro-Caribbean candidate from the Labour party list of candidates for elections across the capital this May.
The union says that the removal of Preston Tabois, a bus driver and Tottenham Labour councillor, reveals the party’s ‘double-standards’ and is calling for the decision to be reversed.
Mr Tabois had previously been endorsed by an NEC Panel, following a complaint about a tweet from several years ago. The panel explicitly said that Mr Tabois should remain a candidate.
However, an NEC panel has now voted to remove Mr Tabois. No reason for his removal has been given. Condemning the move, Unite regional secretary Pete Kavanagh said: “This is just an abysmal decision by the Labour party. It’s an insult to Preston, to our union and more importantly, to London’s voters.
“One in three London voters is from the BAEM community. Candidates like Preston from the Afro-Caribbean community show that Labour stands up for and speaks for all our London communities.
“Preston is Labour through and through. He is a bus driver who knows this city inside out and who will always work to advance the interests of working-class people.
Unite national officer for the union’s BAEM membership, Harish Patel, added: “Voters will rightly be asking why the Westminster candidate for Hartlepool has been allowed to apologise and move on for his insulting comments about women, but Preston Tabois is not allowed to do the same about one post he shared seven years ago.
“Such transparent double-standards will cause anger. The party already has a real problem reaching and engaging the BAEM community at the best of times. This just made that job so much harder.
“To remove the only male Afro-Caribbean candidate from the party’s entire list of 10 for the capital is an appalling move.
“It has to reverse this decision before irreversible damage is done to our relationship with the Afro-Caribbean working class, not just in London but across the country.”
All of which begs the question what is going on the Labour Party? The Party rams through the nomination of a candidate in the Hartlepool by-election with a long list of one and despite sexist tweets referring to women as MILFs he gets excused as it was ‘historical and he apologised’, yet Preston, a decent man, a black man, and a working bus driver who originally gets through is removed from the party list of candidates by another panel?
By Roger Jeary
Political biographies can be hard going at times but this well crafted and detailed view of Walter Citrine does not fall into that category. Jim Moher has chosen to rely heavily upon the extensive diaries and document of Walter Citrine (who was the third General Secretary of the TUC) and intertwined that with extracts/comments from biographers of contemporary figures in the political period covering the first half of the 20th century and beyond.
The book takes us through a chronology of Citrine’s life including his early family/work background and initial steps into the trade union movement.
It then leads us into the period from 1925 to 1946 which focuses on the most influential period of Citrine’s trade union and political career. We then learn of his contribution to the Nationalised Industries, post war, and conclude with his contributions to the House of Lords.
I, like many who have spent their lives involved in the trade union movement, have known of the existence of Citrine through his extensively used “ABC of Chairmanship” originally published in note form as a guide to Electricial Trade Union branches in Liverpool to enable them to complete their meetings without deteriorating into inconclusive shouting matches. Many will have known that he was also General Secretary of the TUC for two decades from 1926 to 1946 but I suspect most will not be familiar with his contribution during that time to the movement and internationalism.
Dr Moher, through his creative analysis of Citrine’s own records and records of meetings throughout that period, is able to provide an insight into discussions and arguments behind the headlines which covered the General Strike, the failed Labour Government in 1931, the fight against fascism in the 1930’s and his international role during the war years.
To cover such a breadth of activity in just over 400 pages and still leave the reader feeling they have an in depth knowledge of the period is a gift that few biographers emulate. To provide this insight into a man who has frequently been dismissed by trade unionists as simply an administrator with a passion for files, has meant that his true contribution to the movement, and the country, is released to all who take time to read this excellent biography.
Len McCluskey of Unite, is demanding that the government discloses the full impact of any roll-back of workers’ rights on the country’s millions of women, vulnerable and minority workers.
Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey has written to Kwasi Kwarteng, the minister responsible for the ‘review’, to demand not only that an equalities impact assessment of any changes is undertaken and published in full, but also that the secretary of state sets out clearly how he intends to engage trade unions in the review process.
Unite has described efforts to cut rights as a ‘bad bosses’ charter’, a gift to rogue employers which will force workers to work longer hours, lower pay and seriously undermine family life.
The union’s call comes ahead of a debate in the House of Commons today (Monday 25 January) where Labour will seek to force the Conservative government to come clean on the real motive behind its ‘review’, which is thought to embrace working time, overtime and holiday pay.
Kwasi Kwarteng initially denied that any consideration of workers’ rights was underway, before being forced to confirm its existence. The review also comes after over a year of emphatic promises from the prime minister that his government would not reverse workers’ rights but instead would ensure that they were a ‘beacon’ to the world.
Stating that Unite will vigorously oppose any efforts to diminish the rights of UK workers, Len McCluskey says that there is no appetite from employers for the review and that the upheaval legal changes will bring is the wrong priority for a country that needs stability, economic investment and an industrial strategy to recover post-pandemic.
In his letter, Len McCluskey writes: “Unite is engaged with some 38,000 employers around the country, of all shapes and sizes, on a daily basis and I can confirm categorically that altering the basic legal rights of their workers is not their priority. Instead, they tell us that they want stability, investment, improved skills across the workforce and the promised industrial strategy to lead to active government engagement with them in the support and renewal of UK industry.
“We oppose any efforts by the government to diminish the rights of the workers of this country, who have committed themselves fully to public service during this year of crisis despite the appalling behaviour of some employers.
“This crisis in one way has been predictable; it has seen opportunistic employers including British Airways, Heathrow Airport Limited and the Go Ahead group move to rewrite contracts, reduce wages and extend working hours. The ease with which they can do so, confident in there being no reproach whatsoever from the government, underlines that workers in this country are already the easiest to mistreat and make redundant among the European economies.
“A responsible government, committed to levelling up and arresting inequality, should be moving to prevent such abuses, not making them more likely.
“I would also urge you not to make the mistake of previous Conservative administrations of refusing to engage with the trade unions of this country. Any moves that divide employers from their workforces, those who will feel the full effect of any subsequent government policies, only serve to sow the seeds of distrust and concern, which would be extremely unhelpful at any time but particularly so while the country faces profound enormous health and economic challenges that are best met collectively and positively, not with working people fearing attack.
“I urge that you move swiftly to involve the trade unions in your advisory panel and accord them the same stakeholder status and full engagement as that given to business.
“I also call upon your department to undertake a full equality impact assessment of any proposed changes to workers’ rights. As the row over Universal Credit reminds us, there are millions of working poor in this country and they are disproportionately women, black and Asian ethnic minorities, disabled and young workers.
“Attacks on working time, are highly likely to make the lives of these workers and that of their families even harder. Longer working hours are certain to lead to pay cuts, putting many below the legal minimum wage. Longer working hours also put health and safety at risk because exhausted workers are unsafe workers, and will place rest and family time under immense stress. These consequences must be fully considered and be fully and publicly disclosed.
“Job insecurity, low skills and low wages are endemic in this country. For our people and economy to thrive, I would urge that government focuses its efforts on addressing these very real challenges, not on divisive, potentially discriminatory and fear-inducing plans to revise workers’ rights, for which there is no clamour.”
“The reports in The Times are an extremely crude attempt to smear Unite and its leadership through a disgraceful attempt at guilt-by-association.
“They attempt to create an impression of a connection between Unite and the criminal investigations taking place in the City of Liverpool on the basis of what even the newspaper is forced to admit is no evidence whatsoever.
“There is absolutely no link between the union or any of its officials with those investigations. Merely coming from Merseyside is not an offence save in the outlook of the Murdoch media, which long has form in this respect.
“The reports are riddled with inaccuracies concerning the construction of Unite’s education, hotel and office facility in Birmingham and they include figures that are wildly erroneous, presented without source or verification.
“The facility in Birmingham also contains a 1000-capacity state of the art conference centre. Independent auditors have confirmed that the hotel, education and conference centre is as an asset to the union to the value of the union’s investment.
“At every stage of this project there have been clear and consistent tendering requirements, with progress reported regularly to the union’s Executive Council.
“Unite’s Birmingham complex is a world-class facility, built to the highest standards using unionised workers and it will help to regenerate a derelict area of England’s second city. Those who seek to misrepresent this project do so to advance their own agenda relating to the election for General Secretary which will take place this year.
“They have an established disregard for the truth.
“Unite is focussed solely on protecting its members during the current pandemic crisis. It does so effectively because its financial strength and democratic governance is second to none in the trade union movement.
“These smears and innuendos will not divert the union from its purpose but they do signify the further decline of a once-respected newspaper.”
Chris Reeves of Platform Films has produced a marvellous film which has taken several years to complete as Chris is heavily engaged in making and producing films on many workers struggles – present and historic – but he has been at pains to ensure it is a reflection of the story of the bitter News International Dispute from the point of view of those involved and the unions.
‘Wapping – The Workers’ Story’ is a film about the momentous year-long industrial dispute which began in 1986 when Rupert Murdoch plotted to move production of his newspapers overnight from central London’s Fleet Street to a secretly equipped and heavily guarded printing plant at Wapping, a docklands district in East London.
5,500 union men and women lost their jobs and centuries of trade union and industrial tradition in one of London’s last manufacturing industries came to an end.
Military-style police tactics, the use of anti union laws which shackled the unions’ hard won freedoms and strike breaking organised by the then right wing electricians union led to a Murdoch victory.
The dispute had international ramifications for Murdoch’s expanding press and broadcasting empire in the United States and around the world. It enabled him to finance his expanding empire including satellite TV.
It took place as the UKs Thatcher government embraced monetarism – deregulating finance, privatising key industries and undermining local democracy.
The story is told by sacked print workers of the NGA, Sogat, AEEU and the ‘refusenik’ NUJ journalists who joined them.
The film was made with the News International Dispute Archive group whose publications, website and travelling exhibition have given a voice to the sacked workers and their families.
The film is 70 minutes long and the DVD has subtitles in: German, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Polish.
The details of how to view the film online and to purchase on-line and DVD copies are contained in the message below from producer Chris Reeves:
“A new documentary about the Wapping dispute by platform films in association with the News International Dispute Archive is now available.
The film can be viewed on-line at: http://vimeo.com/ondemand/wappingtheworkersstory for £2.25.
A DVD version with extras is available from Platform Films, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU.
To purchase a copy or copies of the DVD please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org with your details.
The DVD price is: £8.00 + £1.00 P&P and cheques should be made out to Platform Films.
Read the review of the DVD & Film in The Morning Star by clicking on the following link https://morningstaronline.co.uk/…/real-story-wapping…
Tony Burke (UNITE Assistant General Secretary)
“Unite are proud to be associated with this film to tell the real story of the workers’ struggle with Murdoch, the police, the Tory Government and the right wing media.”
Ken Loach (Film maker)
“We need to know the story of the print workers’ battle against Murdoch. We can understand our enemies and see our strengths. Chris Reeves is a fine film maker and a true friend of the workers movement.”
Ann Field (retired UNITE print sector national officer and a founder member of the News International Dispute Archive)
“From the 1980s conspiracy to get rid of an entire workforce of 5,500 workers to the notorious phone hacking and corruption scandals 30 years later – this film exposes the deep-seated and enduring immorality at the heart of the Murdoch-led News International empire.”
‘Wapping The Workers’ Story’ Winner – Best Director, Best Documentary, Hollywood Hills Film Awards, November 2020
By Len McCluskey
With poverty and unemployment skyrocketing before lockdown, the government must act urgently to avoid a disaster – and support millions of workers who are already on the breadline.
In the end, it took Boris Johnson just eight minutes to tell the country it was being locked down again. He didn’t address his government’s dangerous and shambolic handling of this virus, or offer additional help to our NHS firefighting a level five threat ripping through the system, leaving staff exhausted as they deal with the human costs of his government’s dither and delay.
Frankly, it is far from prime ministerial as can be imagined that the people of the country were told to brace themselves for further months in an economic coma but with no attendant support for incomes and health.
There are huge milestones on the footpath we must now follow, and they are coming at people fast.
On Monday, the ban on landlords in England evicting their tenants ends. Later this month, the deadline for applications for the third grant under the self-employed income support scheme passes. And the last day of January brings the deadline for mortgage holidays and the end of the ban on home repossessions.
These imminent cliff-edges are swiftly followed by the closure of the government-backed ‘bounce back’ loan schemes, withdrawal of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift – a lifeline for many struggling families – and the April end of the job retention scheme.
Rishi Sunak has announced £4.6 billion worth of grants for the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors. Astonishingly though, the chancellor, whose initial enthusiasm for fast and vast action has been replaced by a tendency to last minute limited fiscal crisis-responses that have to be dragged out of him, had nothing to say on jobs and livelihoods. For that, we must await his 5 March budget.
Well, workers can’t wait. The millions on benefits, the low-paid, the self-employed and precarious workers, and their children, cannot wait for springtime stock-taking to know if they will receive longer term income support or be pushed further into poverty.
Fix the furlough scheme for parents and make it clear to employers that they can and should use it. Deliver the long-promised laptops and internet access, and act to increase statutory sick pay to the level of the real living wage and available to all, Chancellor. If you do not, then you ignore the plight of millions – and with that the recovery of our country.
Almost one year ago Unite first called for emergency legislation to ensure that workers not entitled to SSP receive it from day one if they can’t work because of coronavirus. Nothing has changed, other than the virus has mutated and become even more infectious. And it remains the case that poor workers can’t isolate, and if they can’t isolate the virus can’t be beaten back. A TUC survey has found that one in five people forced to self-isolate and unable to work from home have received no sick pay or wages confirms this.
This virus feeds off inequality, targeting the poor and the vulnerable, sadly to be found in shameful levels in the UK, the fifth richest economy on earth. But this government is making deliberate choices. Its failure to provide sick pay that people can live on and where all workers who need it can receive it is a conscious, ideological act but this pandemic will not be defeated until the diabolical choice between health and income has been removed.
Those of us in the union movement who know from our members exactly the struggle they face were, of course, disappointed that Keir Starmer followed the PM on air last night with a comment that there were ‘no absences’ in his speech. I sincerely hope that this is just a failure to think on his feet rather than a genuinely held belief. I prefer to regard Anneliese Dodd’s media round calling for genuine and full income support as the more accurate representation of where HM’s official opposition stands.
Tomorrow’s debate in parliament must not be hijacked by the few on the Tory benches who have all too readily had the ear of the PM in which to pour their lockdown scepticism. No, this must be where the Prime Minister and his Chancellor talk to the people of the country and for the people of this country, not a self-interested faction that will lead us to greater despair.
Speak for the industries that have gone without long-promised help, supply chains that are trying to get to grips with Brexit, and SMEs trying to figure out how to make workplaces secure amid an airborne disease and need urgent support if they are to keep people in work.
Help them by giving them the certainty that the JRS will extend for as long as needed and in line with a vaccine programme that can see the safe re-opening of the economy. And workers sick with fear need to know that they will not lose their homes and that their incomes will not be destroyed.
The signs so far are not great. For those who still have jobs in our hardest-hit industries, many furloughed on below minimum wage levels – which has to be addressed, now – and terrified of what those cliff-edge January dates will bring, the new package offers no hope. They are, as ever, the forgotten victims of a shuttered high street.
This pandemic will subside, thanks to the genius of our scientific community and heroic efforts of our health workers. But the seeds of a new crisis are already being sown – that of endemic, generational poverty and unemployment.
This government is now commonly referred to as the worst in living memory, riddled with cronyism bordering on corruption and stuffed with incompetents. We need an opposition that turns the spotlight on them, exposing them as unfit for office.
So, I appeal to Keir and his team: take off the gloves. The public will respect you for being strong and decisive, a welcome contrast to the shambles in No 10.
The people of this country have been put through hell by this government. They need a strong and confident alternative. Workers can’t wait.