Monday, 30 January 2012

US cops use stun gun on Occupy DC protestor. City of London police label 'Occupy London' protestors as 'Terrorists!

Interesting video from Youtube of an electric stun gun being used by cops in the USA against an innocent demonstrator. How long will it be before they are used on Tent City/Occupy London protestors in London? Earlier this month 16 January, George Monbiot, writing in his column in The Guardian, had this to say:
"Last month city of London police sent a letter to the banks titled 'Terrorism/extremism update for the City of London business community'. It warned of the following 'substantial' terrorist threats?: FARC in Columbia, al-Qaida in Pakistan, and Occupy London. It advised the banks to remain vigilant as 'suspected activists' from the Occupy Movement were engaging in 'hostile reconnaissance' - language that might have been used to report German spies in the second world war. When asked to explain the letter, the police told The Guardian that it had been circulated to 'Key trusted partners'. The banks are trusted partners of our impartial law enforcers; those who seek to hold them to account are terrorists."

The following text is taken from Youtube:
"U.S. Park Police officer used an electronic stun gun on an Occupy DC protester. Police say he was tearing down fliers warning protesters about the ban on camping in McPherson Square. Police also said the unidentified man was charged with disorderly conduct. The arrest took place shortly after noon Sunday. It is reported that after the incident the man had a seizure, and was then refused medical treatment. A park police spokesman said the man became -aggressive and confrontational'' when officers tried to arrest him and that is why the stun gun was used".

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Dave Douglass, Democracy, War & 'the road to hell'

THIS Month's Freedom, the anarchist paper, has a centre-spread devoted to the critical comments of Dave Douglass on Barry Woodling's talk at last November's Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) conference in Newcastle on Libya's rebellion and NATO: or as he calls it 'The Support NATO bombing tendency'. Supporters of the NAN from the North West responded to Dave's diatribe in Freedom by accusing him of 'Orientalism' and 'Cookbook politics'. Dave Douglass particularly questioned the wisdom of anarchists who appealed to what he would call 'bourgeois democracies' to support the rebels, as the republican Spaniards did in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 when fighting Franco's forces, and he concluded by likening this to 'Anarchists end(ing) up so wrong-footed and totally confused and ... (that it was) in its slippery slope ... the road to hell ...,' and claiming 'but I now know the answer how old Kropotkin ended up supporting the first world war.'

Comrade Douglass, who is here also attacking Ian Bone's Blog for expressing the same sympathies as these North West elements of the NAN, claims 'bourgeois democracies' and imperialism don't 'give a monkeys about' massacres and bloodshed in places like Benghazi. For Dave it is just one of those simple Marxist cookbook explanations: 'Gaddafi was another peg in the board game against formally anti-imperialist leaders in the Middle East who proved a threat to Israel and US and Western oil interests.'

Really! I thought in recent years Gaddafi was pals with our former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, America billionaires and had financial links with the London School of Economics. In the fuller version of his critique on the Freedom website, perhaps not surprisingly Dave Douglass quotes from the Morning Star, while his opponent, Barry Woodling, based his NAN analysis on empirical work done among Libyan exiles living in Manchester.

Although America took a back-seat in Libya, Dave Douglass's squib does raise an interesting point about how nation's now pursue wars; last Saturday, Peter W. Singer (author of 'Wired for War: The Robotic Revolution & Conflict in the 21st Century') in an article in the International Herald Tribune entitled 'Drone strikes on democracy', expresses concern about how today the US government is processing its war aims. Mr. Singer writes: 
'In democracies like ours, there have always been deep bonds between the public and its wars', arguing that 'Citizens have historically participated in its decisions to take military action, through their elected representatives, helping to ensure broad support for wars and a willingness to share the costs, both human and economic, of enduring them.' 
Mr. Singer claims that this bond has been broken with the recent US use of drones in Pakistan and that it breaches the intention of the founding fathers to ensure that the pursuit of war is not left 'to the executive ... alone'.

This brought forth a more interesting letter of response from J. Larson in Tokyo:
'Peter W. Singer's concern about the weakening bond between the American public and the wars that the country has involved itself in points to more than a problem of democracy and the Constitution. War has become a business in America, and the military just another corporation that makes its decisions based on money in conjunction with the capital power centers in the United States. This is exactly what James Burnham predicted decades ago in his 1941 book "The Managerial Revolution," where the United States would become more like an oligarchy than a democracy. The "people" now have little say in the wars that are started or their moral justification'

At the time of World War I, the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a column in The Labour Leader entitled 'War: the Cause & the Cure', arguing that Britain was at war 'because it has been decreed by a handful of men: the three Emperors, and the cabinets of London and Paris'. For Russell this posed another question: 'Why do ordinary citizens obey their insane commands, and even obey them with enthusiasm, and with the utmost degree of devotion and heroism?'

Clearly, Dave Douglass's 'Road to Hell', and the public support for wars, is rather more complicated than he or any cookbook recipe could define.

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The next issue of Northern Voices, NV13 out in February, will include an interview between Barry Woodling and a member of the Libyan community in Manchester: this Libyan lad has now returned to Benghazi to participate in the unfolding events there.

Also in the Northern Voices 13 will be an article by the Jim Petty on the militant pacifist Philip Morrell, MP for Burnley 1910-1918, who almost alone in the House of Commons opposed the First World War forcing a debate.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

"Feckless Brits on the dole should learn from hardworking foreigners" says old Etonian, Boris!

Cait Reilly the 22 year old geology graduate from Birmingham, has certainly rattled some cages after taking legal action against the Government for forcing her to work for her dole money which her lawyers say breached her human rights.

In recent weeks a number of celebrity pundits have taken up the cudgel with which to bash young Cait, for having had the audacity to challenge the Government for compelling her to undertake forced labour in return for her dole money. Cait told The Guardian:
"I expected criticism, but some of the comments about me have been hurtful as well as inaccurate. Jan Moir's attack in the Daily Mail, for example, overlooked the fact that I was not paid for the work I carried out and implied that I believed such work, as well as Poundland itself, to be beneath me. This is not the case - I would grab a paid job in Poundland with both hands. Similarly, Vanessa Feltz attempted to humiliate me on the radio."

Now the Mayor of London, ex-'Buller' and pampered old Etonian Boris Johnson, has entered the affray accusing unemployed Cait of 'sneering' at "millions of hard-working Brits by saying the unpaid work she did (for 'Poundland') was forced labour." He also added: "It's just amazing. She shouldn't feel above it."

Boris who as Lord Mayor of London is up for election in May, also took a swipe at 'Feckless Brits' on the dole who he believes are out of work because they lack the 'energy and appetite' for it. He sees the thousands of foreigners who work in places like 'Pret a Manger' (French for 'ready to eat') the British sandwich retail chain, hotels, coffee shops and fast food outlets, as a shining example that unemployed Brits need to learn from.

In an interview with Rupert Murdoch's 'Sun' newspaper, this horny-handed son of toil, recalled his first job as a trainee reporter on The Times newspaper.
"I remember when I first got a job, I could not believe how hard everybody had to work. I couldn't believe having left university that it really did mean getting up that early and working at week-ends. It's not forced labour - she'll learn from it."

Unlike jobless Cait, it is unlikely that Boris Johnson will ever need to use a Jobcentre, fill-in a job application form or work for his dole, because of his social and political connections. Upper-class twits like Boris, who don`t have a clue about the real world of work, usually go from one arranged job to another.

Former 'shelf-stacker' turned Daily Mail columnist, Jan Moir, was even more scathing about Cait in her column on 13 January. She believes Cait is "off her trolley" and ought to be in "Cloud-cuckoo-land rather than Poundland". Ms. Moir told her readers:

"Under a government scheme designed to encourage the long-term unemployed back into work, Reilly was told that she had to leave the museum for a temporary stint at Poundland - and that she risked losing her £54 a week Jobseekers Allowance if she turned down the unpaid work experience, which involved stacking shelves and sweeping floors. Instead of meekly going to work at the discount chain, she went to law."

Though young Cait was doing unpaid voluntary work in a museum at the time the placement at 'Poundland' was foisted upon her by the Jobcentre and was seeking gainful employment, the former shelf-stacker was not impressed. She informed her readers:
"Don`t forget that she is doing unpaid work at the museum because she wants to - not because she has to."

Having explained that Reilly and her lawyer Jim Duffy, say that forcing her to do this kind of unpaid menial work amounts to slave labour and was against her human rights, Moir then issued a dire warning to young people like Cait, who stick up for themselves:
"Life is not going well for geology graduate Cait Reilly. And shall I be the first to tell her? It is just about to get a whole lot worse ... Believe me, such a pinched sense of entitlement at this nascent stage of her career will not endear her to many putative employers."

Many of our readers will not be surprised to learn that in 2009, Ms. Moir was awarded the "Stonewall Bigot of the Year Award" after reporting on the death of the 'Boyzone' singer Stephen Gately. Nevertheless, what Ms. Moir and Boris Johnson fail to mention, is that though Ms. Reilly was guaranteed a job interview by her Jobcentre, she didn't get an interview with Poundland. Moreover, she's also made it perfectly clear that the nature of the work was not a problem and that she would have been happy to do it, had she had a say in it and if she had been paid to do it.

Like many other young people on the Government's so-called work programme, Cait Reilly says that doing unpaid work for a major high street store, left her feeling 'useless and demeaned' and does nothing to build on young peoples' skills nor does it tackle the causes of long-term unemployment. To be unemployed today, is seen as some sort of misdemeanour which requires harsh and intrusive treatment. As Ms. Reilly pointed out in her article in The Guardian, some people on the Government's work programme, will have to do unpaid work for up to 6 months - longer than the unpaid work done by criminals given a community service order. This model of work-for-your-dole is now being securely built into the economy and as John Harris pointed out in The Guardian last August:
"Jobcentre advisers are now being told that if a company has no vacancies for a young jobseeker, they should be 'pushy' about the possibility of an unpaid placement."

Jim Duffy, from Public Interest Lawyers in Birmingham, told the Daily Mail that the government had created without Parliamentary authority a complex array of schemes that allowed Jobcentres to force people into futile, unpaid labour for weeks and months at a time and added:
"We have no problems with Government schemes that increase the chances of people getting employment - that is the key to combating the current economic crises - but these 'work-for-benefit schemes have been proven to do nothing other than increase the cycle of unemployment and poverty..."

Monday, 23 January 2012

Employment Tribunal rules that 'Agency Workers' in UK have no legal protection against blacklisting. Case to go to European Court of Human Rights!

The text below (which we print in full) is taken from a press release that we have received from the Blacklist Support Group concerning the case Smith v Carillion.

Agency workers have no legal protection against blacklisting by multi-national firms according to a shock decision in the Central London Employment Tribunal today. The court found that Dave Smith (an engineer) had been blacklisted by the respondents Carillion (JM) Limited and Schal International Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Carillion) because he raised concerns about asbestos on building sites and because of his trade union activities. The firms actually admitted that their managers had supplied the malicious information to Mr. Smith's blacklist file in a signed statement to the court.

David Renton (pro-bono barrister for Mr.Smith) argued that the blacklist was a major breach of the Human Rights Act and therefore the law should be interpreted in such a way as to protect all "workers" including agency workers. However the court found that because Mr. Smith was employed through an employment agency, UK employment law does not protect him (or millions of other agency workers), so on that point alone the multi-national construction firms won on this legal technicality.

Mr. Smith said outside the court:
"The blacklisting conspiracy is a deliberate breach of human rights by big business. Human Rights are supposed to apply to everyone but Carillion and their subsidiaries have got away with systematic abuse of power simply because I was an agency worker. If the British justice system does not protect workers rights, then we will be taking our case direct to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg"

A secret blacklist file collated by the Consulting Association was presented as evidence and contained Mr. Smith's photograph, address, National Insurance number, work history, car registration, union credentials, information about his family and pages of information about times when Mr. Smith had raised concerns about poor toilet facilities or asbestos on building sites. This information was secretly supplied to the blacklist by managers from major building companies. The blacklist file was covertly shared amongst the 44 largest construction firms in the UK and resulted in periods of unemployment.

Despite the result, the evidence that came out in court about including invoices and hundreds of blacklist files is almost certain to become a key element in a larger "class action" style claim being brought to the High Court by 100 blacklisted workers in the next few months with representation by Hugh Tomlinson QC (the barrister representing celebrity clients in the News of the World phone hacking cases).

There is more to this case still. The evidence which has come up shows that spies attended union meetings and gathered information about people outside work.

Dave Clancy said in the hearing under oath:
"There is information on the Consulting Association files that I believe could only be supplied by the police or the security services"
He also told the court that the Consulting Association held information on elected politicians, journalists, lawyers and academics.

Dave Clancy is the Head of the Investigations Team at the Information Commissioners Office, the man who led the raid on the Consulting Association premises and discovered the blacklist. He is an ex-police officer.

Labour MP John McDonnell said after hearing these revelations:
“I am calling upon the Government to launch a public inquiry into the full extent and impact on people’s lives of blacklisting. These revelations are truly shocking and warrant a detailed and open, public investigation."

Mr. Smith was represented by: David Renton (barrister) and Declan Owens (solicitor) on a pro-bono basis via the Free Representation Unit

View the Blacklist campaign video here.

Thatcher as a cop-out for failures of British Left

BLANCO POSNET on this blog has been bemoaning the prospect of a State Funeral for Lady Thatcher, meanwhile in the Financial Times, Richard Vinen, history lecturer at King's College, London, writes: 'Meryl Streep remarked that she had tried, in the film "The Iron Lady", to capture what it was about Margaret Thatcher that aroused such "venom".' All this endless venom against Thatcher for castrating a bunch of union bosses who were clearly past their sell-by date in the 1980s. Genuine anarcho-syndicalists should worship the woman for this victory and lesson, because it showed us the need to put 'anarcho' into anarcho-syndicalism. For years in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, we deluded ourselves that somehow the simple-minded syndicalism perpetuated by the British trade unions would self-evidently bring forth power to the working people - we thought that we had identified a trend, a shopfloor syndicalist tradition in British labour relations that would eventually encroach control from the bosses.

We were wrong, because all that we got in those industries in which trade unions had dominant influence, such as down the pits and in the print trade, was another kind of bossism through the tin-pot union hierarchies. The question that 'pure syndicalists' like Blanco Posnet, Dave Douglass and Dave Chapple, must answer is 'why was it possible for Thatcherism and the Ridley Plan to triumph in the 1980's?' I suggest it was because Thatcher had a strategy and a vision, while the trade unionists and their leaders in the last half of the 20th century were hopelessly conservative, irresponsible, and self-serving: one of the major proponents of this school, the miner's leader Arthur Scargill, being a silly syndicalist tactician who had no serious strategy beyond 'miner's muscle' and a bone-headed Stalinism set in Barnsley. It is natural that such a short-sighted creature should now end up sueing his own union, the NUM, in an attempt to hang onto a union property in London. As one miner said of Scargill recently: 'For a socialist, Comrade Scargill, does have a strong penchant for property ownership!'

Thatcher and Thatcherism merely demonstrated the deficiency of 'syndicalism a la Grand Britannia': perhaps rather than castrate the trade unions Thatcher simply debagged them revealing they were little more than Eunuchs. The difficulty for Blanco and the two Dave's is that as much as we may admire their efforts to promote the cause of working people in this country, they don't seem to have grasped the significance of Thatcher's triumph in the last half of the 20th century. Dave Douglass, while his autobiography shows that he wrestles valiantly with the tactical threat of Thatcherism in the past, he does not offer a signpost to show how we should proceed in future; Blanco's most recent offering on this theme came in the Northern Voices' publication 'The Workers' Next Step', which flopped with slow sales figures over the last two years; meanwhile the trade union activist, Dave Chapple, despite his undoubtable skills and talents as a trade union organiser leading to the founding of National Shop Stewards Network which last year ended in tears owing to a power grab by the Socialist Party, has now turned to publishing 'Solidarity', a quarterly magazine aiming to give a platform to rank & file trade unionists.

These three veterans of syndicalism, rather than anarcho-syndicalism, do have a problem as do the young syndicalists around 'Liberty & Solidarity', and it is that they are too focused on the past glories and on tactics rather than on developing a vision or strategy for change and transformation of the workplace. They are altogether too conservative and defensive. In some cases, as Dave Douglass's autobiography shows, they suffer from nostalgia for a past age - sometime in the 1970's - when the trade unions seemed deceptively great and strong. In this respect they lack an understanding of what Thatcher accomplished when she defeated the TUC. As Ricard Viner writes in his FT comment entitled 'Blaming Maggie is just a cynical alibi for the left': 'Lady Thatcher has become a kind voodoo doll for a left that talks as though sticking pins in the image of its enemy will substitute for thinking about its own problems.'

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Keeping politics in the family. Local MP's wife nominated to stand for council!

She`s an ambitious and spunky young lady is Claire Reynolds (pictured), the wife of Jonny Reynolds the Labour MP for the constituency of Stalybridge & Hyde.

Some time ago, Northern Voices was told of Claire's ambition of becoming a member of the European Parliament, MEP. Unfortunately, Claire failed in her bid to become an MEP but now seems to have consoled herself, at least for the time being, in getting elected as a Labour councillor on shiftyside council, better known as Tameside Council in Greater Manchester.

At a Labour Party selection meeting, Claire won the nomination to fight the Stalybridge/Dukinfield ward at the next May elections. The sitting councillor, former Tory, Dorothy Cartwright, who joined Labour in 2010 after falling out with her Conservative colleagues, was up for election in May, but was deselected. She's now been nominated to fight the hopeless seat of Stalybridge South for Labour.

As a disaffected Tory who left her local party whinging about "back-biting and bullying", Cartwright is flogging a dead horse in trying to win this seat for Labour. Nevertheless, the contest should be interesting. Cartwright and the sitting Conservative councillor, Doreen Dickinson, are old rivals. We understand from sources that on a previous occasion, Dickinson commenced legal proceedings against the former librarian and teacher, which for some reason, were later abandoned.

As for Claire, some might see her nomination to stand for council as being yet again, another instance of the political cronyism which is endemic within Tameside Labour. Yet times are hard nowadays for many people and it must be a struggle trying to make ends meet as an housewife and mother, on an MP`s salary plus expenses and allowances. Though being a Tameside councillor doesn't pay as much as an MEP it's still pin money and with few job opportunities available for ordinary people today, can one really blame Claire for using her political connections to jump on board the political gravy train.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Expert evidence at Employment Tribunal, points to collusion in blacklisting of workers by police and security services. MP demands an investigation!

A Labour MP is calling on the government to launch a full Public Inquiry after shocking revelations emerged today in court about security services and police collusion in illegal covert blacklisting of trade union members in the construction industry.

In the Smith v Carillion blacklisting court case being heard at the Central London Employment Tribunal, Dave Clancy gave evidence under oath.

"There is information on the Consulting Asociation files that I believe could only be supplied by the police or the security services"

Dave Clancy is the Investigations Manager at the Information Commissioners Office and an ex-police officer. He is the man who led the raid on the Consulting Association offices which uncovered the building industry blacklisting conspiracy involving 44 of the biggest building contractors in the UK.

Mr. Clancy also told the court that the Consulting Association compiled blacklist files on elected politicians, journalists, lawyers and academics.

Responding to the evidence John Mc Donnell MP said:
"The Consulting Association scandal is one of the worst cases of organised human rights abuse ever in the UK"

“I am calling upon the Government to launch a public inquiry into the full extent and impact on people’s lives of blacklisting. These revelations are truly shocking and warrant a detailed and open, public investigation."

The ET continues tomorrow and a decsion is expected either late Thursday or early Friday

Note to editors: Mr. Smith is a 46 year old engineer who has been blacklisted because of his trade union activities and for raising concerns about safety on building sites. This is conceded in a signed document presbnted to the court by the Respondents in the case (Carillion, Carillion (JM) Ltd and Schal International Management Ltd)

Constructi​on firm admits blacklisti​ng union member - potential major precedent for Agency workers

Photo: Mick Holder
(from  the Blacklist Support Group)For the first time ever, construction firms have openly admitted in court that they supplied information to a blacklist file and that the reason they added the information was to penalise the worker because of his trade union activities and because he raised health and safety issues.

The dramatic revelations came during the case of Smith v Carillion at the Central London Employment Tribunal yesterday.

In an unusual legal process, Mr. Smith and the respondent companies Carillion, Carillion (JM) Limited and Schal International Limited agreed a joint statement of facts which was presented to the court. Although couched in legalistic language the agreed statement is the first time ever that any of the mutli-national building firms has admitted blacklisting a union member and the reasons behind it.

In the agreed statement of facts and during Carillion (JM) Limited (previously John Mowlem Limited) and Schal International Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Carillion) and Tarmac Construction (the foreunner of Carillion) admit that:

1. They blacklisted Mr.Smith

2. Their managers supplied information to the notorious Consulting Association blacklist about Mr. Smith

3. The Reason was because of Mr.Smith's trade union activities

4. An additional reason was because Mr. Smith raised concerns about health & safety on building sites.

5. The blacklisting caused Mr. Smith a "detriment"

This is the first time any of the major contractors who subscribed to the Consulting Association blacklist have openly admitted this in court.

In the same statement Mr. Smith agreed that he was not a direct employee of any of the respondent companies but worked via employment agencies (and because only "employees" are protected under current UK law, he should not be able to win his Tribunal)

In a shock turn of events, Carillion then applied for the case to be Struck Out as having no reasonable chance of success but the Tribunal refused the application and the case now continues until Friday.

Dave Renton (barrister for Mr.Smith) is now arguing that because of the scale and nature of the blacklisting scandal, the companies involved had breached the human rights of Mr.Smith and the relevent laws should be re-interpreted to cover all "workers" not just employees. If successful this would set a major precedent for agency workers and other employed via contractors.

In additional uncontested evidence presented to the court:

Sales Book and Invoices disclosed for the first time by the Information Commissoners Office following a Court Order demosntatre the extent of the usage of the Consulting Association blacklist by Carillion. Between 1999 and 2004 Carillion paid £32,145 plus VAT, whilst Mowlem paid a total of £20,444 plus VAT to the Consulting Association. Senior managers from both managers attended regional meetings as part of the blacklisting operation. Invoices indicate that managers from Carillion were attending Consulting Association meetings as late as 2008 (only months before the organisation was closed down).

The case continues tomorrow - a judgement is expected on Friday.

The Employment Tribunal continues tomorrow with evidence from Mr. David Clancy from the Information Commissioners Office (the person who led the raid on the Consulting Association offices which uncovered the illegal building industry blacklist).

Witnesses for the companies tommorw include a Director of Carillion.

Balls to 'PLAN B'

Len McCluskey says: the Alternative is 'Austerity Apocalypse'!

MONTHS ago Ed Balls, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, was asked by John Humphies on the Radio 4 Today Program what was his 'Plan B'? Ed Balls asserted: 'Everyone needs a "Plan B": the E.U. needs a "Plan B"; the USA needs a "Plan B"!' It was no answer at all.

Yet now, we know that for Ed Balls 'Plan B' is, in reality, 'Plan A', the same as the governing Coalition Government and yesterday the political editor of The Guardian wrote: 'Balls believes he has to reassure an electorate that his support for a short-term Keynesian stimulus to kick-start growth now does not mean that he thinks cuts are avoidable later.'

On Monday, Len McCluskey, the Unite union General Secretary, commenting in The Guardian on Mr. Balls and the Labour Party, wrote: 'The political elite that was united in promoting the City-first deregulation policies that led to the crash is now united in asserting that ordinary people must pick up the tab for it.' He thinks this takes us back to effectively a 'National Government', such as existed in 1931 under Ramsay MacDonald. What troubles Mr. McCluskey now is what has troubled anarchists in England: 'The real points of differentiation between Labour and the government on the economy are now very hard to identify ...' Mr. McCluskey expresses surprise that neither Ed Balls or Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, bothered to 'consult with the trade unions' before announcing its new open approach to 'austerity'.

Mr. McCluskey, formerly a clerk on Liverpool docks, clearly believes that the trade unions are being treated like poor relations by the Labour leadership of Miliband and Balls, and that the City is in full charge of navigation of the economy. Of Ed Miliband, McCluskey writes: 'His leadership has been undermined as he is dragged back into the swamp of bond market orthodoxy.' Earlier last year, I claimed on this Northern Voices' Blog that the Labour Party had outlived its mission as a radical party of social change. Its demise as a party was only delayed temporarily by Tony Blair's skills as a devious politician when he seemed to create a new mission under the label of 'New Labour'. What is now happening may come as a surprise to McCluskey, but even he does not explain how the Labour Party, as a properly constituted parliamentary party, can get us out of 'the swamp of the bond market orthodoxy', nor indeed, has the Keynesian economist Robert Skidelsky or anyone else so far as I'm aware.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Graduate 'pilloried for taking legal action' against UK Government slave labour schemes, responds to critics!


The following article which we print in full, appeared in The Guardian on Monday 16th January 2012.

"In a routine appointment with my personal Job Centre Plus adviser last October, I was informed of an open day for people interested in potential retail jobs. Having been unemployed for some time, I was more than happy to attend, and was told by my adviser that, if chosen, I would undergo a week's "training" followed by a guaranteed job interview. It quickly became clear at the open day, however, that the period of "training" would potentially last for up to six weeks. I explained to my adviser my reservations about taking part: I was already in the middle of a work experience placement that I had organised for myself (and which was more relevant to the museum career I hope to pursue), and I already had retail experience.

I thought the "training" was optional, and it came as a shock to be told I was required to attend or risk cancellation or reduction of my £53 per week jobseekers' allowance – despite the fact I have always actively sought paid work. So I began the "placement" with Poundland – it was not training, but two weeks' unpaid work stacking shelves and cleaning floors. I came out with nothing; Poundland gained considerably.

For me, this unpaid labour scheme lasted only two weeks, but some people, as part of the government's work programme, will have to do such unpaid work for up to six months – longer than the community service orders handed out to many criminals.

The nature of such work is not the problem. I would be happy to do it if I had a say in it and, crucially, was paid. While hoping for a career in museums, I have also been applying for any job I am able to do. Like more than a million young people today, I find living on £53 a week extremely difficult, and would be delighted to find any paid work.

Many people seem to think all job seekers are lazy scroungers, sponging off the government. The reality of trying to carve out a career in a tough job market is much more difficult than many appreciate, and not a position anyone would choose to put themselves in.

Last week, I launched judicial review proceedings in the high court – a challenge to regulations that require up to 50,000 jobseekers to carry out unpaid work at major corporations. A case such as this cannot result in significant damages; from day one, my challenge has been about the principle, not the money. It is about social justice.

I expected criticism, but some of the comments about me have been hurtful as well as inaccurate. Jan Moir's attack in the Daily Mail, for example, overlooked the fact that I was not paid for the work I carried out and implied that I believed such work, as well as Poundland itself, to be beneath me. This is not the case – I would grab a paid job in Poundland with both hands. Similarly, Vanessa Feltz attempted to humiliate me on the radio. Such coverage has made taking a stand more difficult than I had imagined.

I am lucky to live in a country that offers financial support to jobseekers. I am also lucky to live in one where citizens do have the right to challenge government decisions. Making a million "neets" (not in employment, education or training) work for free for high-street chains leaves them feeling useless and demeaned, denies paid workers the chance to do overtime, and potentially takes jobs from those who need them. It does nothing to build on young unemployed peoples' skills, or to tackle the causes of long-term unemployment. I hope many more people stand up to what is a badly thought-out system created without the involvement of parliament.

The coalition's commitment to getting people into work is admirable, but this is not the right way to do it. Similar schemes have not worked in other countries, and there is evidence that coercing people into unpaid work masks rather than solves the unemployment crisis. The Department for Work and Pensions hired experts find whether "work for your benefit" schemes delivered benefits. After studying similar programmes in Canada, the US and Australia, they found no evidence such schemes increased an the chances of gaining employment. Whether or not my case is successful, I hope it will make the government think again, and work with young people rather than against them."

Cait Reilly, Sunday 15 January 2012 17.47 GMT Article history

Friday, 13 January 2012

North West NSSN: Fag-End or Vanguard?

WHEN only nine turn up to a North West National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) meeting in Manchester, that proposes to co-ordinate activity to bring about the forcing of the TUC into setting 'a date for a second day of co-ordinated national industrial action', one is entitled to ask: 'are these people fleas pretending to be elephants?' It is true that among the nine activists present last night in the Subway sandwich bar on Peter Street, three unions, Unison, Unite and PCS were represented, but the decision to join with the new 'Left Unity' campaign suggests that the NSSN bosses now realise the folly of their decision a year ago to develop their own anti-cuts campaign.

That decision broke the back of the NSSN and caused the syndicalists and independent socialists to leave the organisation; leaving only the Socialist Party and a few fellow-travellers in control. Since then Bob Crow of the RMT union is reported to have said: 'The NSSN has lost some good people!'. The result was that by forcing out the syndicalists and independent activists the NSSN became an empty shell: just another anti-cuts group. The Socialist Party leaders of the NSSN talk big and claim they forced the TUC to call a national demo last March and more recently created the conditions for the co-ordinated public sector strikes on Nov. 30th but it has little conviction. In reality the leaders of the TUC had to be seen to take some action to justify their existence but they tend to be inconclusive events and probably undermine the morale of workers in the long run. These so-called 'general strikes' have been in operation in other European countries for years with often mixed results.

As part of a series of articles on 'Capitalism in Crisis' in the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman, wrote last Monday: 'The failure of the hard left to capitalise on the economic crisis testifies to how profoundly communism was discredited by the collapse of the Soviet system.' Alex Davidson of the PCS even bemoaned this collapse at last night's meeting with some qualification. The problem for the British Left, as well as the hard left, may go further than the fall of the Soviet Union. Some self-deception may be a necessary part of politics, but the self-delusion displayed at last night's meeting and of the left in this country is based in the lack of any serious alternative plan to combat the Coalition Government. That is why 'Resistance' is the most common word on the lips of the left: we've had the 'Coalition of Resistance' and now 'Unite the Resistance' - their form of 'resistance' is merely to react to the agenda set by the Government. No-where is there any attempt by the hard left or even the main stream Labour Party to present a plausible alternative program.

There are clearly problems of capitalism now, but the hard left is using the thinking tools of the stone age to deal with the consequences, and the Labour Party has no clear agenda. Gideon Rachman in his article quotes the Italian communist, Antonio Gramsci: 'The old is dying and the new cannot be born: in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms will appear.' Mr. Rachman writes: 'Gramsci's observation does resonate now - in an age of ideological confusion.' Perhaps it was too much to expect the folk at last night's meeting to have any fresh ideas: it was at least recognised that the trade unions had yet to recover from the defeats of the 1980s and 90s, and some had hopes that something may yet evolve out of the Occupy movement.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Graduate forced onto Government work-for-dole scheme, takes legal action!

Another legal challenge to the Governments 'mandatory work' schemes is going to be heard in the High Court.

In November we gave details of how many major high-street stores including Sainsbury, Argos, ASDA, Tesco, Poundland, Primark, were offering no pay, work-for-your-dole placements, for claimants as a condition for retaining their unemployment benefits.

One claimant who was told by her Jobcentre that she would have to work for no pay to keep her benefits was 22 year geology graduate Cait Reilly (pictured) from Birmingham. The geology graduate spent two weeks stacking shelves and sweeping floors for no pay, for 'Poundland' in South Birmingham. Cait told The Guardian newspaper:

"It seems we were being used as free labour in the run-up to Christmas."

Although the 22 year old was not offered an interview following her placement and had told the Jobcentre Plus of her previous retail experience and that she was volunteering at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, she was told that she would lose her benefits if she did not accept the 'mandatory' post.

Cait is now challenging the Government over a scheme which she feels compels jobseekers into "futile, unpaid labour". She is asking the High Court to quash regulations that her lawyers claim were created by the government 'without parliamentary authority' and 'force people into futile, unpaid labour for weeks or months at a time.'

Speaking to the Metro, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said:
"Our priority is to help people off benefits and into work. It is simply absurd to suggest that we should not be providing this support and effectively leaving people at home doing nothing."

Although Poundland didn't offer Cait a job, they told the newspaper: "Our partnership with Jobcentre Plus is a positive step to get people back into work."

Action against this type of forced labour is also being challenged under the Human Rights Act by solicitors from 'Public Interest Lawyers' in Birmingham who are seeking a judicial review of the scheme on behalf of two clients who they maintain were forced to work against their will when put on the Governments 'mandatory work activity' program. This they say amounted to a breach of their human rights under article 4(2) of the Human Rights Act which states that "No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour."

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Zagreb Anarchist Bookfair: Invitation for Northern Voices & NAN to Participate


AFTER the blackballing of the NAN and Northern Voices by a pair of curmudgeons and churls, who effectively operated as political Godfather and Godmother respectively at the Manchester Bookfair last December, we have just received an invite to the Eighth Annual Anarchist Bookfair in Zagreb this year taking place between March 31st and April 2nd. We have still yet to receive a proper explanation as to why those who reside seemingly under-the-pavement in central Manchester with the other political insects have not found it in themselves to come out into the open and present their criticism: but as we say in Lancashire, there is 'Nowt so queer as Folk'.

A good comrade of ours from the North East, who boycotted the Manchester Bookfair in sympathy because of the way in which we had been treated, said that this kind of thing would not have happened up in Northumbria. Indeed, it is doubtful that such a thing would have happened on such feeble grounds anywhere in the UK.

The organisers of the Zagreb Bookfair (ASK- Anarhisticki sajam knjiga) say they hope to bring in more people every year as participants, publishers, groups, projects - whoever is interested in what the bookfair has to offer. And they say: 'For [the] discussion part everything is open, as every year, so all suggestions, ideas, etc are welcome, as well as texts that you find interesting for further debate.' Furthermore, the organisers in Zagreb say: 'In many different situations, these bookfairs have proven to be important events and meeting places on both local and international levels.' They conclude with a welcoming appeal: 'This is why we need your help - come and support this event with solidarity and participation.'

How very different are these Croatians in Zagreb to the narrow-minded folk who seem to have been behind organising the Manchester Bookfair over the years: the 2010 Bookfair at the Dancehouse on Oxford Road, Manchester, being described by someone as 'one of the most customer unfriendly events' that they had ever attended. The program for the Zagreb Bookfair is not yet completed but for more infornmation: go to or email:

Friday, 6 January 2012

Government slave labour scheme hailed as a success in getting the unemployed off the dole, but not into a job!

The Daily Malice, better known as the Daily Mail, ran an interesting story yesterday. According to the newspaper the Government have released figures that show that half of those who are on unemployment benefit who are referred for 'mandatory work activity' by the Jobcentre, prefer to stop claiming benefits rather than be dragooned into undertaking forced unpaid labour.

Government figures show that 20% of claimants referred for 'mandatory work activity' cease claiming unemployment benefit immediately and another 30%, have their benefits stopped when they fail to turn up. So impresssed is the Government with the results that it is extending 'mandatory work activity' nationwide, so as to catch a further 50,000 unemployed. A source quoted by the newspaper said that the results so far had been 'extraordinary' and added:
"This has started on a relatively small scale, to see how it would work, but nobody expected the results we are seeing...for the majority it is proving to be a push that gets them off benefits. What this demonstrates is that there really is a hardcore of claimants who have absolutely no intention of working come what may."

Although the government presents these work-for-dole schemes as offering training and work experience for the unemployed, the figures only confirm what has been known for some time, that these schemes are about forcing people off benefits in order to reduce the benefits bill. People working on the schemes are exempted from minimum wage legislation and are effectively being compelled to undertake forced labour in order to retain their unemployment benefit.

Last November, we wrote that solicitors from 'Public Interest Lawyers' in Birmingham, were acting on behalf of two clients involved in the 'mandatory work activity' programme and were seeking a judicial review of the scheme on the grounds that their clients were forced to work against their will which amounted to a breach of their human rights under article 4(2) of the Human Rights Act, which states:

"No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour."

Northern Voices blog has frequently published articles about these work-for-dole schemes (see our posting "Motivating the Workshy - New Deal Bum Deal" September 2009) which in our view amount to an appalling abuse of human rights. No one should be forced into undertaking forced labour, a practice which is more commonly associated, with totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany.