Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Don't like Mandatory Work Activity? Then contact Seetec bosses!

WE are publishing below in full the latest bulletin from 'Boycott Workfare:
A mysterious source has revealed the mobile numbers for some of the top executives profiting from forced unpaid work at Seetec. This workfare company pockets over £400 for every person sent on Mandatory Work Activity while claimants retain only their Jobseekers’ Allowance of £286.80 for 4 weeks’ work. These executives are currently pushing for more people to be sanctioned. They are helping push ever increasing numbers of people into hunger and destitution. These are the executives – whose wages are paid solely by the taxpayer – who are bidding for even more of your money from the state, to force people into workfare.
Seetec has the contract for delivering Mandatory Work Activity in London and East England and has numerous contracts for the disastrous Work Programme. We’ve already heard they’re not big fans of Boycott Workfare, complaining that placements are more difficult to find as a result of your campaigning!
One in five people sent on Mandatory Work Activity has their benefits stopped. Sanctions can now last for up to three years. These managers ruin people’s lives on an industrial scale. We think pointing this out to them might just ruin their day:
Andrew Emerson, Executive Director at Seetec – 07977 002278
Mark Smith, Operational Director for Mandatory Work Activity, 07870 244087
Please contact these Seetec bosses and help make sure they can’t go on ignoring the consequences of their workfare profiteering.
Top tips:
  • Why not highlight your concern about the jobs that are being replaced, the fact volunteering is being undermined or the devastating impact of sanctions?
  • If you don’t want them to call you back, you can dial 141 first.
  • No credit? You could try an online free text service or there’s always email!
  • They’re paid by the public, so it’s totally legitimate for the public to contact them with our concerns.

Man cuts throat with knife in protest over bedroom tax!

A MAN cut his throat with a knife in a Runcorn benefits advice office during an outburst about the bedroom tax.

An eyewitness, who asked not be identified, heard the middle-aged man say he was ‘sick of all this sh*t’ then watched him drag a blade through skin from his ear down to his throat on each side of his neck.

The wounds left him and the floor spattered with blood, the witness said.

Staff hit an emergency alarm during the incident.

It happened at about 2pm on Monday, at Halton Direct Link in Halton Lea shopping centre.
Cheshire police officers have spoken to the man, who suffered ‘minor injuries’, about his wellbeing.

No criminal offences were reported.

Halton Borough Council said he was receiving support following the incident, as are Link staff.
The witness, who was waiting in line to see an adviser, said no other residents reacted to the outburst but that staff seemed ‘a little bit shocked’.

He said: “From what I could see, the bloke had gone to see an adviser".

"He was upset about the bedroom tax and wasn’t getting through and he started to cut his throat on both sides and threw the knife on the floor and he had blood coming from his neck.There was a lot of blood but it hadn’t come out of his artery, he wasn’t gushing out blood. He went through the side of his neck from his ear to the front. It would have needed medical attention. Everyone was just sat about normal waiting to go and see the adviser. I was in the queue. Nobody did nothing.”

A Halton Council spokesman said: “We are aware of this incident. The person concerned is receiving appropriate support and we are supporting our staff who witnessed the incident.”

Establishing Register of Qualified Electricians

COMMUNITIES and Local Government Committee. Select Committee Announcement Tuesday 30 July 2013.  For Immediate Release:
Monday 2 September 5.15pm
ORAL EVIDENCE SESSION: Follow up to the Committee’s 2012 report on Building Regulations
5.15 pm
· Steve Bratt, ECA Group Chief Executive Officer, ECA Certification Ltd (ELECSA)
· Martin Bruno, Chief Operating Officer, NAPIT
· Emma Clancy, Chief Executive Officer, Certsure LLP 
· Phil Buckle, Director General, Electrical Safety Council

This session is following up the Committee’s report on Building regulations applying to electrical and gas instillation and repairs in dwellings. It will focus on 'electrical issues', including progress towards the establishment of a single register of qualified electricians.
Notes to Editors:

The Committee’s Report on Building Regulations was published on 30 March 2012

The Government Response was published in July 2012.

The Committee held a follow up session with Rt Hon Don Foster MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government on 11 February 2013.

Other information on the Committee’s inquiry, including correspondence received, can be found on the Building Regulations Inquiry page.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Committee Membership is as follows: Mr Clive Betts (Chair, Lab), Bob Blackman (Con), Simon Danczuk (Lab), Mrs Mary Glindon (Lab), David Heyes (Lab), James Morris (Con), Mark Pawsey (Con), John Pugh, (Lib Dem), Andy Sawford (Lab/Co-op), John Stevenson (Con) and Heather Wheeler (Con).

High Court 'devastating' ruling on bedroom tax

THE High Court in London has dismissed a legal challenge to the Government’s 'bedroom tax' after judges ruled that the policy did not disproportionately discriminate against disabled people.  However, the High Court said ministers must now make regulations 'very speedily' to ensure there is 'no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities'.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said the ruling would be ‘devastating’ for disabled adults and families with disabled of vulnerable children.  He said:
'As a result of today’s ruling we’re really concerned that these families will now face a real struggle to meet their rent and may end up losing their home.'

The judicial review of the 'spare room subsidy' was brought by 10 families with disabled or vulnerable children, who argued the under-occupation penalty discriminates against claimants who are disabled or have disabled family members.

Since 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent and persons deemed to have two, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25 per cent. 

The claimants all argued that these new housing benefit rules discriminated against people with disabilities. But the court ruled that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified. Lawyers for adults with disabilities confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful. Disabled children and their families also intend to appeal as ministers have declined to confirm that the new regulations, which the court said must be made, will cover their situations, or to provide a date by which the new regulations will be made.

Housing industry leaders expressed their disappointment at the judgment.

National Housing Federation chief executive, David Orr said:
'We are deeply disappointed with the outcome of today’s High Court judgement. The fact that disabled people are being forced to take the Government to the High Court to challenge the bedroom tax shows how desperate their situation is.'

Housing associations warned from day one that this policy was unworkable.  Disabled people across the country are being forced to cut back on food and heating to pay the bedroom tax, despite the fact that many have had their homes adapted at great cost due to their disabilities: 
'The Government said Discretionary Housing Payments would protect these people, but this is only a temporary measure which is unlikely to provide long-term security for people, and the money available is not enough to go around. “This judgement does not change the fact that the bedroom tax is a flawed and unfair policy that won’t achieve what the Government hopes it will. The only fair solution is to scrap this policy now.'

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, added:
'This judgement will come as a huge blow for thousands of disabled families who are being unfairly affected by the bedroom tax. “The legal challenges have highlighted the problems caused by having a "one size fits all" system that doesn’t take people’s individual circumstances into account.  Increasing discretionary housing support by £35 million, as the Department for Work and Pensions has announced, is simply not the right way to mitigate the impact this policy is having.'

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said:
'We are pleased to learn that the court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people.  Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people’s extra bedrooms.'

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bedroom Tax: High Court decision today

THE High Court is to rule on whether cuts to housing benefit for social housing residents with spare bedrooms discriminates against disabled people.

Lawyers for 10 families brought a judicial review over the 'bedroom tax' in May this year.  They say the change breaches their clients' human rights because they need the extra space for health reasons.  The families, all disabled or the parents of disabled children, challenged the changes during a three-day hearing. 

The claimants are represented by three law firms and are from various places including London, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester and Birmingham.  Their lawyers argued the benefit cut violated the Human Rights Act and Equality Act. 

Ugo Hayter from Leigh Day, which is representing two of the claimants said the legislation was "unfair" and had 'disproportionate negative consequences on disabled people and is therefore discriminatory'.

The lawyers also said the £25m the government has made available to councils to make discretionary payments to help disabled people affected by the benefit cuts is insufficient.

The government says the benefit changes were intended to reduce a £21bn annual housing benefit bill and encourage greater mobility in the social rented sector.  The Department of Work and Pensions said it was confident the measures were lawful and do not discriminate against disabled claimants or those with shared care of children. 

At the time of the High Court case, a DWP spokesman said it was 'only right' to bring back fairness to the system and pointed out there were 'two million households on the social housing waiting list and over a quarter of a million tenants... living in overcrowded homes'

The DWP added that an extra £150m in total has been made available to councils' funding for vulnerable claimants.
However, the National Housing Federation said earlier this month that the consequences of the change were worse than feared.  Rent arrears have soared in some areas while larger houses are lying empty as people refuse to move into them, it claimed. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Unite Issues Statement on Falkirk

IN response to the announcement that the Police would not be investigating the matters referred to them by the Labour Party in respect of the Falkirk Labour selection row, a Unite spokesman responded: 
'Unite welcomes the police decision not to investigate the Falkirk selection, which appears to be based on an overdue application of common sense to the situation. Unite reaffirms what it has always said – the union broke neither Labour Party rules nor the law in Falkirk. Those in the media who have smeared the union without evidence or justification should now hang their heads in shame. We would hope that Labour will now lift the suspensions of Stevie Deans and Karie Murphy, agree to an independent investigation into what happened in Falkirk, and restore full rights to the constituency party as soon as possible.'

Friday, 26 July 2013

Britain's Heritage fights to save Chapel

SAVE Britain’s Heritage is challenging a High Court ruling that condemns a 111-year-old Edwardian chapel in the Klondyke area of Bootle; the fate of almost 500 empty terraced houses may hinge on the decision. 

Sefton Borough Council plans to grass the site over as part of their controversial demolition and redevelopment of the Klondyke area of terraced houses, built by Welsh businessman Klondyke Jones, a former Mayor of Bootle in the late 19thand early 20th centuries.

SAVE is supporting local groups who are contesting ‘Pathfinder’ neighbourhood demolition, and who are seeking who new uses for the chapel, a local landmark, constructed in 1902, known as the Welsh Presbyterian Chapel on Springwell Road in Bootle.

The imposing red brick Chapel was in full use for worship until March 2008, when its congregation was dispersed in a bitterly contested housing clearance programme. The chapel closed. John Prescott’s Pathfinder targeted 1,000 homes in the Klondyke for clearance, and a further 17,000 on Merseyside. Nationally Pathfinder demolished 30,000 homes using £2.2bn of public money before being formally scrapped by Coalition housing minister Grant Shapps. SAVE is concerned that large scale demolitions are continuing in places like Bootle, Gateshead and Liverpool’s Welsh Streets, and have vigorously contested them through planning and legal challenges. 

Sefton Council had promised the community the Chapel would be retained as part of the area’s redevelopment, but shortly after coming into their ownership there was a fire, following which demolition began. Local residents accused the council of failing to secure the building adequately. 

SAVE placed an immediate court injunction on the demolition in January 2012, but not before Sefton Council had removed parts of the roof and structural archway key-stones. 

SAVE believes that the loss of the local population through Pathfinder clearance has killed off local amenities like the chapel. When seeking Judicial Review, SAVE argued that the entire demolition programme should have been subjected to an EIA, and that separately ‘salami slicing’ small blocks of demolition like the Chapel was a way of avoiding the duty to assess environmental impacts. 

SAVE argued that the Secretary of State wrongly failed to take into account that the proposed demolition was part of a wider three-phase redevelopment of the Klondyke area. SAVE said the government had failed to consider the cumulative environmental effects of the whole project before deciding that no EIA was required.

Sefton has already demolished some 450 Klondyke homes for redevelopment to a lower density by Bellway Homes. Another 483 homes stand empty, stripped of their fixtures, in part pending the decision on and Environmental Impact Assessment. Just a few vulnerable households remain, stranded by Sefton’s inability to rehouse them.

Seven months since the case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, Mr Justice Stadlen handed down a judgement running to some 100 pages, rejecting SAVE’s challenge to a government decision that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was needed prior to demolition.

SAVE’s Barrister Richard Harwood QC has submitted papers seeking leave to appeal.

Solicitors from Richard Buxton Environmental Law are writing to Sefton Council asking them to desist from demolition while the case remains under review.

Richard Harwood said:
'SAVE has been concerned at the heritage cost of demolishing thousands of Victorian and Edwardian terraced properties and the human cost of dispersing communities, particularly as the properties can be retained, refurbished and extended. The present government scrapped the Pathfinder programme, yet Sefton Council have been determined to continue with demolition in the Klondyke and elsewhere.'

SAVE Director Clem Cecil says 'SAVE does not accept the argument that the chapel was unsound and therefore had to be demolished. It is simply a way of incrementally running the area down. It is a classic case of salami slicing in order to avoid the rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment.' 
Sefton campaigner Juliet Edgar said 'We are grateful to SAVE for all their support. While the Chapel and surrounding houses still stand there remains some hope – with the bedroom tax these homes are needed more than ever, and it is shocking to see solid Victorian buildings like the Chapel left to rot.'

For further information contact the SAVE Office on 0207 253 3500/

Bridgewater Delivery Office Appeal

RE: Bridgwater Delivery Office Official Dispute – Financial Support Needed

110 CWU Members out of 120 Postal Workers at Bridgwater Delivery Office are currently under severe attack from Royal Mail. They have taken five days strike action so far, following a 79.3% “Yes” vote. 

The main issues are Royal Mail's un-agreed implementation of a drastic summer savings plan, also allegations about bullying and a “Performance Management” regime and refusal to pay monies owed for mail sequencing savings. These issues have involved Royal Mail selectively breaking both local and national Agreements with the CWU.

Local representatives, officials from the Bristol & District Amalgamated Branch, CWU Divisional Representatives and Bob Gibson National CWU Officer have attempted to come to an acceptable compromise agreement, including substantial summer only savings, only to be rebuffed by the employer.

Meanwhile Bridgwater CWU Reps Darren Granter, Dave Chapple, CWU Committee Members and striking postal workers are allegedly being harassed on a daily basis. There is a feeling that this is to try and provoke wildcat walkouts in order to weaken the official balloted action. Furthermore, CWU members have complained of being watched during their deliveries, during grace breaks, and at gate meetings with officials, and even at a toilet cubicle. They have had overtime denied for spurious reasons and been summarily taken off their delivery. Some new temporary contracts staff feel they are being placed under severe pressure to attend work on strike days.

Attendances on the Bridgwater picket lines have been excellent and have ranged from 35 up to 70 people; the membership's continued solidarity has shocked Royal Mail. Consequently, the CWU and wider trade union movement cannot afford to stand by in the light of the Con-Dem Government's privatisation attempts and let the strong CWU membership at Bridgwater Delivery Office be starved back to work.

Further strikes are planned to continue the pressure on Royal Mail to negotiate a fair settlement.

Therefore to assist workers who are involved in this protracted dispute please can you help and ensure that you give all you can to the official 'Bridgwater Delivery Office Dispute Fund' this will keep morale to a maximum during the next crucial few weeks.
Please can you make out cheques to –
'Bridgwater Trades Union Council' and sent to –
Dave Chapple CWU,
1 Blake Place,
You can also send messages of support to Dave Chapple at  or telephone 0777 6304 276 or to
Dave Wilshire Branch Secretary, CWU Bristol & District Amalgamated Branch at  or telephone 07909525740
Finally, we are requesting speakers from the Trade Union movement and supporters of the Postal Workers to contact Dave Chapple to make arrangements to attend picket lines and also for CWU Reps to speak at your meetings.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tameside Hospital placed into 'special measures' by Keogh. CEO resigns!

TAMESIDE Hospital has been placed into special measures following a review by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the National Health Service in England. Sir Bruce Keogh and his team, were instructed by the government to investigate 14 hospital trusts with high death rates - Tameside Hospital being one of them, following publication of the Francis Report, into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

An interim Chief Executive and an interim Medical Director, have been brought in by the regulator 'Monitor', to replace £150,000 per year, Chief Executive, Christine Green and the £160,000 per year Medical Director, Dr Tariq Mahmood, who resigned before publication of the report. MPs, doctors and NHS regulators, said they had lost faith in Green's ability to overhaul the hospital's poor record of care, which had "caused anxieties at the highest level of the health service." The Guardian newspaper disclosed that the GP-led Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), was so concerned by lapses in care and the hospital's failure to act on multiple previous warnings that it believed Green and Mahmood had to go. Mahmood said that he was resigning for 'family reasons' but would be staying at the hospital working as an obstetrician.

The 55 page report on Tameside Hospital, notes that Tameside falls within the most deprived quartile of counties in England. That teenage pregnancy and alcohol-related hospital stays for under-18-year-olds are particularly common and violent crime and long-term unemployment, relatively more common than in England as a whole. Children's and young people's and adults health is significantly lower than the national average. Tameside life expectancy for both men and women is significantly lower than the national average.Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in particular, asbestos-related lung disease is common in Tameside. The report also says:-

The number of actual deaths at the hospital is above the expected range. A score of 100 indicates that the observed number of deaths matched the expected number. The hospital had an overall 'Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) of 116 between Dec 2011 to Nov 2012. Elective admissions (those patients who arrange to go into hospital) was also above the expected range for SHMI, with a value of 166. According to figures published by Professor Sir Brian Jarman, on excess deaths at failing hospital trusts, there were 833 excess deaths at Tameside Hospital between 2006-2012, than would have been expected.

The report says there is an acceptance of sub optimal standards of care across the organisation.

The hospital had the seventh highest rate of MRSA superbug infections out of 141 national trusts from 2010-12. It had the second highest infection rate in the country over the same period for Clostridium difficile.

Response to complaints is brief, slow and lacking in compassion and accountability.

The staff sickness rate is almost twice the average and the three-month vacancy rate over 50% higher the national average. More money is spent on agency staff (9.4% of total staff costs) than the regional median average of (3.5%). Nursing levels at the hospital are 'dangerously low' - 1.31 nurses per bed as compared with a national average of 1.96.

Junior doctors and patients are not being adequately supervised by consultants, particularly at night. The Board is not effectively leading the the Trust in delivering quality care and governance. Hospital governors appear disengaged, have limited information about the Trust's quality and safety priorities and do not feel they can hold the non-executive directors to account.

The report says that hospital staff are apprehensive about speaking out or asking questions in monthly briefing sessions. According to one hospital consultant, who is not quoted in the report, "Many nurses simply do not report understaffed shifts for many reasons; tiredness, fear of reprisals or simply because they believe it will not change anything." Only "A few brave nurses continue to file incident forms, reporting that the wards are unsafe as a result of understaffing. The Trust categorises these incidents as of low priority."

According to the  report, Board members did not feel they could effectively challenge at Board meetings because the chief executive's response was unpredictable. The Chief executive's approach is described as 'overly operational' and the report adds, "the Chairman had not fully considered the impact of this leadership style on the executive team's ability to fulfil their functions." Others have described her leadership style as 'bullying', 'bossy and domineering'. The Chairman (Paul Connellan) was not able to confirm that he was fully assured of the quality of services provided in the hospital. At interview, he described being 60% assured and 40% reasssured. The senior independent director, could not decribe what was on the Chairman's 'worry list'.

There is poor infection control at the hospital. In one instance, a patient admitted with Clostridium difficile, was put on a six-bedded bay in the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) which was in breach of Trust policy and which put, the five remaining patients at risk. According to the report there is insufficient clinical cover, particularly out of hours, which is leading to a lack of timely investigations and poor management of deteriorating patients in some areas. At the unannounced visit (2nd/3rd June), the most senior surgical doctor in the hospital was a Foundation Year 2 doctor. The doctor said that her registrar was on call at home and described being supervised during the day but not at night.

Although hospital management told the panel that they did not fully understand what the factors were behind the high death rate at the hospital nor were they clear, as to what were the best actions needed to address it, the report says that there is a commonly held belief amongst hospital management that the 'Shipman effect' - a reluctance to allow ill patients to stay in the community, and external factors - poor community care, social deprivation and underlying health problems, are the main reasons for excess mortality. The report notes that emphasis on the 'Shipman effect' and other external factors, could reduce focus on improvements to reduce excess mortality.

The report also says that mortality (deaths) are monitored by a paediatrician who looks at a random choice of of 8-10 patient deaths per week. But a report by Milton Pena, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, at Tameside Hospital, which was sent to Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health in 2010, had this to say about the process:

"The Review of contemporary deaths in adults has been carried out by a consultant paediatrician. This is worrying because he is outside his area of expertise."

During the unannounced visit in June, it was noted that 8 out of 14 sets of notes viewed, did not have the basic patients details recording appropriate monitoring of fluid input and output, even in a patient who had undergone a transfusion. On ward 45, 'Do Not Resuscitate' (DNAR) forms did not contain the consultants name or sign-off as required by Trust policy. One of the forms examined was signed-off by a Foundation Year 2 doctor. None of them had a consultant signature. It was also noted that the Women's Health Unit, was being managed by an agency nurse contrary to Trust policy.

The panel concluded that they were not convinced that the Board had the capability to fully address the cultural change required in the Trust. They also noted that although the hospital had launched an 'Everyone Matters' initiative, there was no clear evidence that the board was listening to patients and familiies to improve the quality of patient experience. (Some patients and relatives who did complain to the hospital and joined action groups such as the Tameside Hospital Action Group (THAG), were branded by the hospital management as individuals with psychological problems).Three years ago (June 2010), the consultants Korn/Ferry/Whitehead Mann, had this to say about the Board: "The Board meetings are not discussing urgent clinical matters in depth and not conducting rigorous debate on key issues...The Chairman and CEO lack the leadership qualities required."

It's almost two-years ago that Paul Connellan was appointed Chairman of the Board at Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust. He was described by the chief executive Christine Green as "a perfect fit" and he vowed that he would improve the culture and image of the hospital. He also claimed that he had the right skills and experience (30 years experience in the travel industry) to get to the root of problems, such as the high death rates. But far from improving the culture and image of the hospital, the report has found a lack of leadership and capability at Board level and serious failings in the hospital's patient care. The hospital have been told to take urgent action and to ensure that no patients are at immediate risk of unsafe care.

This collective failure of governance and responsibilty at Tameside Hospital and the deficiencies in patient care, have led to calls for a public inquiry. Amongst those who are demanding a public inquiry, are health campaigner, Liz Degnen, from Hadfield. In 2009, her 79-year-old mother, Betty Dunn, died from the superbug C Difficile while she was a patient at Tameside Hospital. Liz collected 8,000 signatures on a petition calling for hospital bosses to resign. In a recent interview in the Manchester Evening News, she said that she was "thrilled to bits" to hear of Christine Green's resignation. "I think she should hang her head in shame. She should not receive a payout because there should be no reward for failure in the NHS." Referring to the Keogh report, she told the newspaper: "I really welcome the findings of the report. We've waited far too long to reach this day. It has vindicated everything we campaigned for. We need to move forward now. I hope we can now get a public inquiry with total transparency, but we've got to look to the future and be optimistic."

Tameside Hospital have said that all recommendations in the Keogh report will be implemented in full by the end of February 2014. They have also launched 'Tameside Listens', which will ask staff, local people, stakeholders, for their views and ideas about how improvements can be made at the hospital to deliver high quality care for patientsand families."

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Len McCluskey's letter to the Unite Members

Dear Unite member,

Labour, Unite and can we be stronger together?
When Ed Miliband recently announced that he was seeking to change the relationship between the Labour Party and trades unions most people wondered what on earth he was up to? 

Why change the relationship between working people and the party that they founded some hundred years ago? Why alter the system that ensures that trade union affiliation fees remain the cleanest money in UK politics? 

But Ed is onto something. Participation in politics in this country is at an all-time low, hardly surprising given that politicians are seen as a distant, self-serving elite.

Let's be frank, the relationship between the unions and Labour has not always worked for working people. Too often in the past the party has favoured establishment interests over improving the lives of ordinary people.

The status quo therefore could not continue. I had every intention of instigating a debate within our union on how it could be improved to your advantage.

This week that process begins. On Wednesday, your union's Executive Committee and regional political committees gather to discuss what Ed's proposals mean for our movement.

You can hear me address this event by logging onto to the live stream broadcast.

Ed's actions are bold and potentially historic. The details have yet to become clear, but they offer the prospect of tens of thousands of Unite members playing a more active role within the Labour Party. 

That really is the way to refound Labour; to have people like you, connected to our communities, driving Labour to be the party that will deliver the changes these communities sorely need.

Your views in this will be vital so we will look for ways to discuss these proposals in the workplaces and communities of our nations, beginning with this week's live stream broadcast.

Testing times
Ed's changes do not signal a break in the union/Labour link, although recent developments have sorely tested this bond. The attacks levelled at Unite and the language used in the media have been nothing short of disgraceful. You can be assured that Unite has done nothing wrong and has always operated within the Labour Party rules. We will continue to defend our position against the smear campaign.  

These happenings will not deflect us from pursuing our aims of promoting the core values of collectivism, community spirit, fairness, equality and justice.

So whatever you feel about politics right now, please support your union, Unite, as it strives to change it in this country for the better, and for us all. 

With thanks, 
Len McCluskey:  Unite general secretary

Crossrail: Parliamentary Blacklisting Investigation

THE parliamentary Select Committee investigating blacklisting of union members has referred the Crossrail project and the construction companies Bam - Ferrovial - Kier (BFK) to the government for further investigation. 
The announcement was made during evidence given by Stephen Ratcliffe, Director of UK Contractors Group to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. - quote is at: 14:57:00
Mr. Ratcliffe was described by conservative MP Simon Reevell, a former lawyer, as:
'You are the most evasive and potentially dishonest witness I’ve encountered at this committee and frankly in 20 years of practicing at the bar.'

The Crossrail referral to the government follows the deliberate blacklisting of UNITE shop steward Frank Morris from the largest publicly funded project in Western Europe last September. There has been a volatile dispute between UNITE and BFK / Crossrail to gain reinstatement of Mr. Morris involving a legal claim is currently in the High Court and widespread civil disobedience which has repeatedly seen Oxford Street and Park Lane blockaded during rush hour by protesters. The dispute has sprung up around the world including Holland, Spain, France and Canada.

Gail Cartmail, UNITE Assistant General Secretary gave evidence under oath to the Select Committee last week and specifically named Ron Baron (Head of HR for Crossrail) and Pat Swift (Head of HR for BFK) as being proven blacklisters who were responsible for ongoing blacklisting of union members on Crossrail.

Both David Cameron and Vince Cable have called for evidence of ongoing blacklisting after questions were raised in parliament - the referral by the Select Committee is the biggest sign to date that MPs believe that the practice continues to this day.

The Blacklist Support Group issued the following statement:
'Blacklisting of union members and workers who raise genuine safety concerns is not some historic episode. It is happening today on the biggest building project in the UK.  The building firms have lied about blacklisting for decades. Why should we believe a word they say? Even the MPs carrying out the investigation do not believe them.  Blacklisted workers applaud the work of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee: referring Crossrail to the government sends out a clear message. But until Frank Morris gets his job back on Crossrail, the fight continues. And we will use every means at our disposal to achieve justice. Big business should not be above the law. Only a full Public Inquiry into blacklisting will uncover the true extent of the industrial scale human rights abuse that has taken place against UK citizens.'

Latest video of Crossrail dispute blockade of Oxford Street:

Blacklist Support Group


Friday, 19 July 2013

Smith, the abuser, revisted by the national media

THE fifty-year old story of Cyril Smith abusing young men in the Cambridge House boys hostel in Rochdale in the 1960's is once again attacting national media interest.

Exaro is a national news agency, run by extremely distinguished journalists, like David Hencke, the award winning, former Guardian journalist.  I have been working with the team there on the Smith story for some months.

Earlier this week they ran a couple of stories on their website  relating to Smith's statements to the police, when he was being investigated by them about his abuse in 1969/70, quoting directly from files they have gained access to, via Freedom of Information requests.  You can find out some more details by visting the web link, above. 

Unfortunately, the full stories sit behind Exaro's paywall.  You have to subscribe to them (about £50 per year) to get full details of this, and the many other very good stories they cover.  The paywall is a nuisance for news followers, used to getting "free" news, but the people who run this site are journalists who need paying - just like everybody else.  The subscription fees pay their wages - there is no Rupert Murdoch lurking in the background to abuse and warp their words and stories and fill thier own pockets in the process.

Exaro's man on the Smith case is Nick Fielding who has had a long and successful Fleet Street career.  He is promising much more on the Smith story over the coming weeks.  I'll try and keep you up to speed on this, as details emerge.

Meanwhile, a high profile and well-regarded team of TV journalists is putting together a story on Smith and related abuse, likely to be shown in the autumn on a major terrestial UK channel.  Sorry for being obsucre on this, but they are anxious that their story and details are not pre-empted by early leaks.

Again, I have spent some time with the journalists on this story, and without betraying any confidences they have shared with me, when transmitted, the well-researched programme is likely to offer some considerable solace to Smith's victims. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013


Star date: 18th July 2013
Yesterday, Unite the Union staged a big demonstration outside Salford City Council's Civic Centre to highlight the dark practice of blacklisting within the construction industry.
Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart, very publicly backed the campaign in April - but the Salford Star can reveal that, this year alone, over £100million of public contracts in the city have been awarded to two of the companies - Kier and BAM Construct - at the centre of the anti-blacklist campaign.

Full details here…
Source Salford Star

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

EX BNP candidate jailed for harassing German next-door neighbour. Everybody needs good neighbour's!

A former BNP candidate who stood four times for election in Dukinfield, has been jailed for 14 weeks for harassing his German-born next-door neighbour.

Roy Kevin West (48), of Glenmore Grove, Dukinfield, was found guilty of breaching a restraining order which prevented him from "making direct or indirect contact" with Mr. Bernd Kugow and Susan Holt, his next-door neighbour's. The order also prevented him from mentioning or making reference to them on the "internet, via social networking, blogging and discussion forums."

Last year, West was given a 12-week jail sentence, suspended for 12 months and subjected to a curfew order, after he subjected Mr. Kugow to verbal abuse calling him a 'Kraut', after he confronted him about a display of union flags and poppies which West had erected to face his neighbour's home.

In 2009, West pleaded guilty to racially aggravated public order offences against Mr. Kugow. The court heard that West, who had three St George's flags and a Cornish flag in his back garden, had attempted to put up a Union Jack by attaching it to Mr Kugow's shed. And when Mr Kugow objected, West flew into a rage, calling his neighbour a 'Kraut *******' and telling him to '**** off back to Krautland' before adding 'kill some more Jews'. West also told his neighbour to 'remember Dunkirk' during the 10-minute tirade.

West originally pleaded not guilty to racial abuse but shortly before he was due to take the witness stand for his trial at Tameside Magistrates' Court, he dramatically changed his mind and admitted the charge. His solicitor said West felt under pressure to deny the charge because of his position in the party.

After his arrest, the BNP leadership complained that he was the victim of a 'malicious prosecution' and tried to organise a demonstration to protest against the arrest. But the protest was called off when West said he wanted the case to remain a private matter.

 Mr Kugow said his neighbour later apologised over the incident and came to his house with a box of chocolates and a handwritten letter. He said West sat crying in his kitchen as he admitted his guilt.
West was later fined £125 and ordered to pay £200 costs and a £15 victim's surcharge. He was also ordered to pay Mr Kugow £50 compensation.

In 2012, West was acquitted at Oldham Magistates Court, by District Judge Prowse, on a charge of pusuing a course of harassment against John Taylor, the deputy leader of Tameside Council, when the Crown said it would offer no evidence if he accepted a restraining order. The two-year restraining order, prevented West from going within 50 metres of Cllr. Taylor's home in Dukinfield.

When he appeared before District Judge Craig Osborne, the following month, to answer two charges of breaching another restraining order, West told the court, that he believed that Cllr. Taylor and his neighbour had been acting in collusion and that he had been filming Cllr. Taylor, on one of his frequent visits to Mr. Kugow's home.  While the filming of Mr. Kugow washing his car was upheld as a breach, the filming of Cllr. Taylor was dismissed as a breach. The Judge said that although "West had behaved like a juvenile idiot", he was surprised that New Charter as a Registered Social Landlord (RSL), had got involved in a neighbour dispute when Mr. Kugow was an owner occupier. The Judge had also told West that if he breached the injunction again, "you will be well advised to bring your tooth-brush with you to court on the next occasion. Breach it and it's jail; or nothing."

Originally from Dewsbury, West moved to the Tameside area some years ago. Before taking up residence in Dukinfield, he lived in Hyde, where we understand he was also known to have had trouble with the neighbour's. We understand that West is currently residing in Forest Bank prison pending transfer to another jail.

Durham Miners Gala

The 129th Durham Miners Gala took place last Saturday 13th July with the usual banner parade through the city.    Guest speakers included the ubiquitous Owen Jones, Bob Crow, Frances O'Grady General Secretaty of the TUC, and Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite.    The Daily Mirrors Kevin Maguire stole the show with a rousing speech.   He also wrote an excellent article in the Durham Miners Gala Special pamphlet.

The 1st Durham Miners Gala was in August 1871.      The Russian anarchist  Peter Kropotkin addressed the Durham  Miners at their Big Meeting (ie the Gala) in July 1882 speaking out against Czarist oppression and also against coercion in Ireland noting "that in the English dominions people are also imprisoned without being judged".   Newcastle Daily Chronicle 3.7.1882.    It is about time that the anarcho-syndicalist message is widely disseminated again at such events and not confined to the periphery which as a consequence allows the trade union bureaucrats to dominate proceedings and engage in vacuous rhetoric.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Greater Manchester Anti Bedroom Tax Conference - Saturday 20 July, Manchester.

1pm - 4pm Sat 20th July
Friends Meeting House, Mount St, M2

We are out to Axe the Bedroom Tax. To win we will need to be united, resolute, and organised. This Rally and Conference is open to all those opposed to the Bedroom Tax.
Local Anti Bedroom Tax groups are invited to send delegations of every tenant and activists in their group. Trades Unions and supporting organisations are invited to send representatives.
This rally and conference is to establish a: Greater Manchester Federation of Anti Bedroom Tax Groups and Supporting Organisations.

Agenda for the Federation Launch
Federation Rally and Conference
1pm - 1.30pm : Registration
1.30pm - 3pm : Rally Against the Bedroom Tax
Speakers from local groups, DPAC, trades unions, other Federations (Liverpool, Leeds, Scotland) Cllrs*, supporting organisations

3pm - 4pm : Conference to establish the Federation
Proposed statement (amendments to be submitted before 15thJuly)
Federation Committee elections (nominations to be submitted by 15th July)
Final remarks
*see Councillors against Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts statement
Click read more below
Flyer for Federation and March to the Court
Date 2013-07-05 Filesize 46.06 KB Download 38

Councillors against Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts
We are Councillors opposed to the injustice of the Bedroom Tax and other benefit cuts.
It is wrong and unworkable to target the poorest, sick and disabled people. It is unjustifiable that the poorest 21% are being hit with 39% of all the austerity cuts.
Rent and Council Tax arrears are mounting fast, and it is not fair, reasonable or viable to recover these arrears or evict tenants. Central Government should compensate Councils and landlords for the bad debts they have caused.
We oppose anyone losing their home or being forced to move due to the Bedroom Tax or other unjust benefit cuts, and call on landlords not to evict those pushed into arrears due to these measures.  Councils that have pledged not to evict those forced into arrears and calling on local landlords to do the same, and those ‘redesignating’ bedrooms to avoid the Bedroom Tax, are taking practical action to support tenants and expose these unworkable measures.

We support joint action by Councillors along with local and national Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice campaigns, to link up across Britain, expose and actively oppose these benefit cuts, and demand their repeal.

Monday, 15 July 2013

GMB sues Carillion for defamation on behalf of blacklisted members!

WE have just received the latest briefing from the Blacklist Support Group, which we are publishing in full. At a time when the Labour controlled council of Tameside, are giving contracts to Carillion who now run their Estate and Management facilities, and as from 1st September, will take over all school catering in the borough, the GMB trade union have launched a High Court claim against Carillion for defamation on behalf  of their members. We also understand that Unite and Ucatt, are considering similar action against the construction giant which was linked to the secretive blacklisting organisation the 'Consulting Association'.

1. Compensation Scheme

'A compensation scheme that covers all blacklisted workers has long been one of our demands. Some people for whatever reason will not be able to qualify for the various court cases that are being prepared and therefore this will be the scheme that covers everyone - we don't want anyone caught up in this missing out on any possible compensation.

At present lawyers are developing a draft compensation scheme - so far we have not seen the proposal and no one will be forced to accept any such scheme without full consultation. And even then, if people wish to carry on their legal claims instead, that is fully acceptable. But the logical outcome of the legal cases is that after a few test cases are won the blacklisting firms are likely to agree to an industry wide compensation scheme. This is the first tentative steps in that process. Updates on this will come out when things progress.

2. High Court Action

Blacklist Support Group is fully behind the Guney Clark & Ryan (GCR) High Court claim for conspiracy against Sir Robert McAlpine Limited. Sean Curran, JC Townsend and Liam Dunne were key speakers at our recent AGM and we encourage everyone who is not part of their own union's legal claims to join the GCR claim. This is being taken on a no-win no-fee basis with GCR agreeing to waive some of the legal costs for new applicants despite recent changes in legal funding rules.

There is some exchanging paperwork with the court at the moment. It is not expected that there will be a real hearing in court until early 2014 - the wheels of justice turn very slowly. GCR have stood shoulder to shoulder with us since 2009 and spent 4 years preparing this case without a penny in payment from any of us - we are immensely proud of the lawyers for taking such a principled stand on our behalf.

GMB have recently launched a High Court claim against Carillion for defamation on behalf of their members.

Both UNITE and UCATT have made noises to the similar effect.

3. Select Committee investigation

The Select Committee is looking for anyone who has put in a legal claim against any blacklisting firm where the company fought the case on a legal technicality - specifically did you put in an Employment Tribunal claim where the claim thrown out because of being out of time? or because you worked for a sub-contractor or an agency? or any other legal technicality?

If yes - then please get in touch with me ASAP - if you have evidence - then the Select Committee want to hear about it

The Select Committee is also looking for evidence of ongoing blacklisting.

Specifically has anyone got any evidence that the NRB "Not Required Back" system is still in operation in the North Sea - Offshore Oil industry?

or has anyone got any documentary evidence of any blacklisting in the building industry today (other than Crossrail) - what about Salford Media City? or the Power Stations?

4. Crossrail

The dispute with Crossrail and BFK is now global. UNITE have organised protests in France, Spain, Holland and this week Canada. UNITE have now organised over 400 protests across the UK with blacklisted workers involved in across Europe. This is just the start, we are going to crank it up and up.

Gail Cartmail raised the issue of ongoing blacklisting at Crossrail when giving 2 hours of evidence to the Select committee investigation. Crossrail, BFK, Ron Baron and Pat Swift were all given a good kicking and are going to be called to give evidence in the near future.

Great work Gail. Click here for video footage of evidence:

5 . Edd Mustill playwright solidarity

The play "St Giles Breed" by Edd Mustill was recently shown in London as part of the Transcend Festival. One of the sponsors on the event is the blacklisting firm BAM - Edd Mustill therefore protested at his own play and distributed flyers to the audience telling them about the role of BAM on Crossrail.

Top man Edd - great solidarity brother

See here for the full story:

6. Piper Alpha

It is the anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea.

167 offshore workers lost their lives because of a series of fundamental breaches of safety by the company who cut corners to increase production and profit.

We mourn the dead but also fight for the living.

There was a series of disputes on safety issues on oil rigs at the time with workers setting up the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC) - now part of RMT. Many workers offshore and building new rigs (including Piper Beat) were blacklisted for raising safety issues and the "not required back" NRB system was used to target OILC and other union activists (now in UNITE).

Professor Charles Woolfson was added to the blacklist for carrying out research into safety in the North sea after the Piper Alpha disaster (it actually states that in his blacklist file).

Our commemoration to those who lost their lives in Piper Alpha is to fight for better safety and against blacklisting of those who raised safety issues.

7. Local Authorities

Dozens of local councils and the Welsh assembly have passed motions at the full council meetings calling for blacklisting firms to be denied publicly funded contracts. Some local authorities have already refused tenders to the firms because of the blacklist but do not wish to go public about it - others are preparing to throw firms off when their contracts come up for renewal.

No Public Contracts for blacklisters - bring the services back into the public sector

Well done to the Councillors - keep your nerve - the first council to publicly throw off a blacklisting firm will be famous

8. Police Spies

Many people will have seen the Dispatches TV documentary or read the Guardian story about undercover police who spied on environmental activists and the Stephen Lawrence family. The same Special Branch spies also spied on trade unionists in the building industry - some of them came on our picket lines and even chaired our campaign meetings back in the 1990s. The story linking undercover police with the blacklist is likely to break in the media very soon.

9. Glastonbury Festival

The the new Reel News film "Blacklisting 2013 - the workers strike back" was premiered at Glastonbury Festival to a packed Speakers Forum stage.

New campaign video:

Ricky Tomlinson raised blacklisting and the Shrewsbury camapign when he took part in a debate alongside Mark Serwotka (PCS Gen Sec) chaired by John Humphreys (BBC) at an even more packed Left Field stage

10. TUC Day of Action

The TUC has held a meeting to discuss a Day of Action on blacklisting - we await the results.

11. ICO latest

To date the ICO has still onl;y issued 407 blacklist files. Which means over 2900 woprkers are still completely unaware that they have been blacklisted. The ICO is now working with the DWP and HMRC using national insurance numbers to track down other people on the list. It's only taken them four and a half years to do this.

If anyone thinks they may be on the blacklist - especially anyone who worked on Jubilee Line, Connah Quays in Wales, Royal Opera House or Pfizers in Kent contact the ICO to check.

If you have recently got your blacklist file - contact your union ASAP and contact us to be added to the BSG mailing list

12. Reel News Film Night - Blacklisting Special - Thursday 18th July

The Grosvenor Pub

Sidney Road, Stockwell, London SW9 0TP

Speaker: Frank Morris - blacklisted Crossrail rep



Premiered to a big audience at the Glastonbury festival, the full story of blacklisting in the construction industry.


Extracts from the brilliant “Rocking the Foundations” film, showing how building workers in the 70s prevented corporations destroying the environment in Sydney through rank and file action.

PLUS: Singer/songwriter CHRIS TYMKOW will be playing a short set, including his song "BLACKLIST"

keep the faith


Blacklist Support Group




Friday, 12 July 2013

Triple Vision at Number Ten Gallery

FOCHDALE artist Walter Kershaw opened the current Triple Vision exhibition at Number Ten Gallery in Baillie Street in the town centre on June 28th.  The gallery was packed with local folk and supported by many of the great and the good.  Walter commended the work referring to the handling of colour and welcomed the event held to support Petrus a homeless charity to whom some of the proceeds will go.  The three artists who dedicated their work to this event were Colin Fielding, Colin Gilbert and Lorraine Dewhurst.  

Ms. Dewhurst, we learn, paints using most media but favour soft pastels often focusing on animal subjects.  But it was her Acrilic painting entitled 'Rock Nook Mill, Littleborough (former home of Fothergill & Harvey)' (£60) that caught mine and Walter's attention.

Colin Fielding, who Walter Kershaw knows best, was influenced we are told Walter by the famous Norwich School of Painters.  He is more experimental and finds some inspiration in abstract art:  his work here stretches from the traditional to the abstract using most mediums  - from an abstract watercolour rendering of Stravinski's 'Rite of Spring' (£60)  to his  watercolour of 'Bamburg Castle, Northumberland' (£50) and his 'Ulswater' (Cumbria) (£50).

Colin Gilbert's work is more impressionistic and mainly local in subject matter and he works mostly in watercolour such as 'The Dam, Rippenden' (£65), but the exhibition has some of his prints like 'Toll House, Blackstone Edge Old Road' (£40) from original watercolour another was 'Healey Dell Viaduct' (£40).

Walter Kershaw, who donated one of his own works to the event for raffling-off, described the pricing of these works as being very reasonable.   Rochdale folk and locals should go and support this event at Number Ten that runs until the 27th, July 2013.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Charities pull out of 'Workfare'. State sponsored slavery under attack!

WE have received this latest briefing from 'Boycott Workfare' which we are publishing on NV blog:

'One in five people sent on mandatory work activity in charity shops face destructive sanctions (benefit stoppages) of three or six months. Sanctions are a major reason for the soaring rise in the use of foodbanks as hunger is made a daily reality in the UK. The charities still involved in workfare are profiting from making people poorer and giving moral cover to the companies involved as well. Let’s tell them it’s time to pull out!

'Last month, a poll of charity workers showed just how unpopular workfare is with the majority of people in charities: 92% who thought that the government should publish the list of workfare providers that it is withholding.

'Since the start of the year, thanks to your action, five charities have said they will no longer take part in workfare schemes: Sense, PDSA, Capability Scotland, Sue Ryder and the Red Cross. The Children’s Society has also pledged not to use workfare.

'This means the workfare schemes which rely on charity placements are on the rocks! Already before the latest withdrawals, the government complained: “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.'

Let’s help banish workfare from charities: contact these workfare exploiters today.


Fellow animal charity PDSA has already realised that it needed to show a bit more kindness to the human beings working in its shops. Time for RSPCA to do the same and stop using workfare!

Head office: 030 0123 0100

Facebook: RSPCA


Flickr feed:

Twitter: @rspca_official


The YMCA released a statement in March defending their use of forced unpaid workers, and ignoring the fact they are responsible for pushing people into destitution and possible homelessness through sanctions which can last up to three years. Persuade them to join the list of charities who will no longer have anything to do with workfare.

Phone them on 020 7186 9500 or their shops hotline on 0845 601 0728.

Email: or


Find contacts for your nearest YMCA shop:


Tweet their President, Bishop John Sentamu, has spoken out against workfare in the past: @johnsentamu

Twitter: @ymca_england

Salvation Army

The government has praised the Salvation Army for ‘holding the line‘ on workfare. When new figures emerged two weeks ago showing just how disastrous the Work Programme is for claimants, the Salvation Army released a pro-Work Programme report and have publicly claimed that ‘The Work Programme is working‘. They have boasted about the fact they even force sick and disabled people to do their workfare schemes.

Salvation Army UK can be contacted on facebook and on Twitter: @TSA_IHQ and @salvationarmyuk

They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at:

The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.

To tell Salvation Army branches round the world what is being done in their name in the UK find twitter details here.

British Heart Foundation

Following occupations and pickets in across the UK British Heart Foundation announced they were “moving away” from workfare. Recently they declared they had withdrawn from the Mandatory Work Activity scheme. But they are openly declaring on their website that they are still participating in the Work Programme – despite the fact that in December this scheme was extended to give providers the power to force many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance to work for nothing, or face sanctions.

BHF state on their site: “Our supporters are welcome to contact us directly if they have any questions about our participation in the scheme. Please email“.

Don’t disappoint them, get in touch!

BHF Retail HQ – 01372 477 300

Head Office – 020 7554 0000

Customer Service Centre – 0300 330 3322

Facebook: BHF


Twitter: @thebhf

Papworth Trust

Papworth Trust told

'Papworth Trust believes that by being involved in mandatory work activity, we can make sure that each work placement is as effective as possible for each disabled or disadvantaged person.'

Now tell them what you think of their use of disabled people on workfare!

A list of phone and fax numbers can be found here.



Facebook: Papworth Trust

Twitter: @papworthtrust

'And if you’ve got a bit more time, why not get in touch with some of the high street brands profiting from workfare or the green charities exploiting forced labour too? Remember there’s loads of action on the streets this Saturday too!'

Simon Danczuk MP, looks after himself

SIMON Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, who lately backed the coalition's plan to put the unemployed on a 7-day wait before allowing them to sign-on for their dole, has just snapped-up a second job for himself.

The Register of MP's interests shows Mr. Danczuk earns an extra £1,000 a month for only one day's 'work' as a director of Shine Bid Services, for whom he gives 'business advice'.  Shine helps firms that want to win public sector contracts.  This will include glossy brochures, and the drawing up of bids for companies wanting to win hospital PFI bids, or private firms wanting to run council care homes.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Demonstrators clash in Ashton memorial gardens!

Last Saturday around 100 racial bigots from an organisation called the 'North West Infidels', a nationalist splinter group from the English Defence League (EDL), marched through Ashton-under-Lyne to the cenotaph in St Michael's Square. They were confronted by around 30 anti-fascist protestors from Tameside Unite Against Fascism (TUAF).

Although this was an highly organised affair with each group being given a police liaison officer, there were clashes between individuals from each of the rival groups, when some people broke ranks and stormed towards the cenotaph. The police were seen to detain a number of people.

Ashton-under-Lyne has become a focal point for the far-right since the EDL marched through Hyde in February. The EDL march, followed an earlier incident where two white youths were attacked by Asian youths. Takeaway worker, Ali Haydor, aged 21, was subsequently jailed for two-years for assault. The marches in Ashton, are supposedly a response to an alleged racial incident involving Asian and white youths that took place last month.

Before the march to the cenotaph in St. Michael's Square, members of TUAF had been told by a senior council officer from Tameside Council that they could not leaflet on the market ground. This kind of heavy handed attitude is fairly typical from the Labour run council in Tameside. The Electoral Reform Society, recently stated that Tameside was in danger of becoming a one party state like North Korea, because of the lack of democracy in the borough.

Europeans Lose Faith in Government

IN today's International Herald Tribune Melisa Eddy reports:  'Fewer than 10% of people surveyed in the European countries hardest hit by the region's debt crisis say that their leaders are doing a good job at fighting corruption, a survey by the anti-corruption group Transperancy International has found.'

This survey, released yesterday, shows a 'deep chasm between elected leaders and the people they govern,' says Ms. Eddy.  Something like half of the 114,000 people surveyed viewed political parties as the most corrupt institutions, and over half thought that their government was run by special interest groups.

It seems that even in the more better-off European countries the glum mood has taken hold.  Only 11% of British people surveyed and only 13% of Germans saw their governments as effective in fighting corruption, both of these fell well below the global average of 22%.

Across the world, 51% of people surveyed saw political parties in their countries as the most corrupt institutions, folloew closely by the police and judiciary.

The media, it seems, did not do as badly, but interestingly it was seen as most corrupt in Austrialia and Britain.  About 69% said it was the most corrupt institution in Britain, up from 39% three years ago.  The Leveson inquiry can't have helped here.

U.S Syndicalists Protest Against Drones

ON Saturday, 29 June 2013, near Langley, Virginia, fifty people protested against the government's killer drones at the main gates of the CIA, and six individuals were arrested.  The action was initiated
by several groups, including the Syndicalist Action Network, that have been active in challenging the U.S. drone-assassinations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, and other countries.

Those arrested for civil disobedience were Joy First, from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin; Malachy Kilbride, from Arlington, Virginia; Max Obuszewski, from Baltimore, Maryland; Philip Runkel, the Archivist of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Janice Sevre-Duszynska, from Lexington, Kentucky; and Cindy Sheehan, from Vacaville, California.

Because we have been concerned about the continuing deaths from drone strikes, and especially the many deaths of innocents, we decided we must act.  So we went to the CIA and asked for a meeting.  We were joined by the National Committee for Non-Violent Resistance, Cindy Sheehan, Brian Terrell, and other activists from “Code Pink,” “World Can’t Wait,” “Veterans for Peace,” “Answer,” and a number of individuals.  (Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq in 2004.  Terrell was recently released from federal prison after serving a 6-month term for a peaceful protest against the drone assassins at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri).

Our group walked up to the gates of the CIA.  When we were denied a meeting, six individuals crossed onto the base.  After announcing a mock drone strike, five people lay down on the ground and were covered with photographs of REAL drone victims.  The sixth person keened and wailed over the bodies.  After 20 minutes, this group rose up and began to walk further onto the base carrying more photographs of drone victims.  Then they were arrested and cited on site.

Somewhere between 3,500 and 4,500 people have been killed by drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other places around the world with no due process.  According to a joint study from Stanford University and New York University only 2% of those killed are high-level targets.  Over 200 children have been killed in Pakistan alone.  According to Malachy Kilbride, 'These illegal drone strikes are not making people in the U.S. any safer and will only perpetuate the cycle of violence.'

From Syndicalist Action USA 09/07/2013

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

US Post Office's Low Tech Snoops

YEARS ago, in the 1960s, we found out that our local dole office in Rochdale had been compiling files on claimants entitle 'Derog' or 'Derogatory'.  In 1966, a group of anarchists attached to the then Manchester Anarchist Group raided Rochdale Labour Exchange near Rochdale station and took away a file which had details of my signing record; when this was later examined it was found that it contained a dossier on me every bit as compromising as some of the stuff in the Consulting Association's blacklist files run by the now deceased Ian Kerr and the 40-odd firms that have been exposed.  So here we had public servants (probably members of a public sector union) keeping records that were detrimental to a claimant who they were being paid to help into work.  At that time the Economic League was also active.  The police paid me a visit after I had contacted Geoff Whitworth, who later became an editor of the Rochdale Observer.  These files were never returned the the Rochdale Labour Exchange and the police took no further action, presumably because their contents were too embarrassing to the authorities.  Then around 1970, I believe questions were asked by a Liberal MP in the House of Commons, and still later in the 1970s the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) took up the story and interviewed the then manager of the Rochdale Labour Exchange:  he assured us that the practises of compiling 'Derog' files had by that time been abandoned.

Last Thursday, in the International Herald Tribune, Ron Nixon wrote:
'Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September:  a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.'
The contents of the card were 'Show all mail to supv for copying prior to going out on the street'.  It included Mr. Pickering's name, adress and the type of mail to be monitored, and the word 'confidential' was highlighted in green.

Mr. Pickering, who owns a small bookshop in Buffalo and was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, said:  'It was a bit of a shock to see it!'  It seems that his group is labelled 'eco-terrorists' by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Later postal officials confirmed they were tracking Mr. Pickering's mail but told him nothing.

It seems that Mr. Pickering was targeted by a long-time surveillance system called 'mail covers', yet that is only a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control & Tracking, in which the Postal Service computers photograph the outside of ever piece of paper mail that is processed in the USA.

Ron Nixon writes that together the two programs show that snail mail gets the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mails.  He writes that the 'mail-covers program' used to keep tabs on Mr. Pickering, is over a century old but is still seen as a powerful tool.   It seems that at the request of law enforcement authorities, postal workers record information on the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered.  According to Mr.Nixon tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.

I wonder what the Communications Workers' Union in this country thinks about this?

Huge queues outside courts as thousands prosecuted over arrears

THOUSANDS of low-income earners are being hauled into court to pay council tax bills in a vicious attack on Britain’s most vulnerable families.  In a new measure branded 'Poll Tax Mk 2', an estimated 1.9 million people who did not previously have to pay the tax are now liable for between 10 and 30 per cent of the full bill, reports the Mirror. And queues have formed outside courts as Britain’s poorest respond to threatening demands to pay. 

The Government’s latest attack on the poor is a result of the introduction in April of the Welfare Reform Act. Families have been shocked that local authorities have started chasing up bills for the next 12 months so soon after the introduction of the sweeping ­changes due to Government cutbacks. Since April 1 council tax benefit has been replaced by council tax support, and responsibility for that is switching from central government to councils. 

Hilary Benn, Shadow Secretary for Local Government, said:
'We warned the Government that their Poll Tax Mark 2 would lead to people on low incomes being chased through the courts for sums of money that they simply don’t have. “It will push some into the arms of payday lenders and loan sharks. But David Cameron and George ­Osborne refused to listen and went ahead at the same time as they cut the top rate of tax. How out of touch can you get?'

Around 232 local authorities have devised schemes that will demand council tax from everyone regardless of ­income and only 58 will retain current levels of support. In a snapshot survey of councils in England and Wales it has been found they are wasting no time in chasing struggling families for the money. Tameside council in Greater Manchester has issued 3,691 summons to households who paid NO council tax before the changes.

Single parent Charlotte Hughes, 41, received a summons saying she had to pay £141.66. When she arrived at Tameside Magistrates' Court, she found dozens of people queuing outside. She said:
'My priority is finding money to get food for my child. Other people might not think it is much money but it is for me.  It was humiliating going to court. We had to queue up before we were herded into a room. It was like a cattle market.' 

In Cornwall around 20,000 people who previously had their council tax paid in full are now being asked to pay at least 25 per cent. Six thousand are now in arrears and 1,000 have had a court ­summons so far. 

This week Cornwall’s council finance portfolio holder Alex Folkes said: “In the case of the very poorest, that is very bad news.   'Anyone who has problems, get in touch. We will listen. We don’t want people to go down the court system.'

Last year Peterborough City Council issued summons to 3,538 households but this figure has doubled since the new welfare reforms. 

The Resolution Foundation, a non-profit research organisation, said in a recent report that a typical bill had risen by between £100 and £250 a year, but some it could be as much as £600 more. 

Alex Hurrell, a senior analyst at the foundation, said:
'We warned that thousands of low-paid working people would face the biggest increases in council tax.  Now we’re seeing councils with dwindling ­resources chase some of the hardest-pressed people in the country.  Sadly we’re likely to see more scenes like these in the coming months and years.' 

In a typical example on Friday 1,079 liability ­orders were issued at Truro magistrates court on behalf of Cornwall Council to people who hadn’t paid their council tax. Many were first-timers ­unable to foot the bill. 

Jason Simmons, 46, from Redruth, was summoned to court for non-payment. He said:
'I’ve managed to pay £30 of it, but there is no way I’ll be able to pay the rest.'

Carlise Tenants: 'A Las Barricadas'


When you have a child rapist as a neighbour, how do you cope, particularly when you are old and living alone? People in a block of former council flats in Carlisle have taken to barricading themselves in at night.
The situation has led to questions about the present approach to housing undesirable people and whether the present landlord, Riverside Housing Association, is up to doing the job.
The frightened people live in Dixon`s Court, Shaddongate, and in the past they have put up with tenants jailed for drug offences and jailed for other serious crimes. But when they learned that one neighbour had been arrested and jailed for four years for raping a 14 –year-old girl , the barricades went up.
These frightened people are not the only victims. There other frightened people in Carlisle who have abandoned their homes in despair and gone away to live with relatives because of neighbours from hell or because of neighbours convicted of serious offences put there by Riverside.
Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation is far from happy with the present Riverside policy and today urged city councillors to investigate that policy and also the frightened tenants of Dixon`s Court.
A Federation spokesman said:”These frightened people tell us that Riverside is not acting as a responsible landlord. There seems to be no proper policy for housing undesirables. Responsible tenants are suffering and should have a say in choosing their neighbours”.
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