Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ashton Jobcentre, New Charter Housing and Tameside Council, join forces to bully single mothers on benefits!

You really couldn't make this up. But in the delusional world of Tory welfare reform, anything is possible. It seems from a recent report that Ashton-under-Lyne, Jobcentre, are now targeting single mothers and re-branding them as 'troubled families', in order to get  people people off benefits or into work.

Under this bizarre scheme, which came to light when a single-parent jobseeker told protesters outside Ashton Jobcentre that she'd been assigned a social worker, because it was claimed she'd not done enough to find work, she was referred to a scheme called 'Troubled Families Wave 2 Joint Investment Agreement' being run by Tameside Labour Council in Greater Manchester. The scheme which is a joint effort between Tameside Council, Ashton Jobcentre, and New Charter Housing, assigns to single mothers, a social worker and key worker, who watch and monitor them until they find work.

Seemingly, Tameside Council have agreed to work with a minimum of 1,750 'troubled families'. In return the government provides a £1,000 fee per family. In addition, a further £800 result fee is provided to an agency which is to be 'New Charter Housing Ltd'. It is understood that tenders were not invited as no other outside agency was allowed to apply.

Nowadays, there is no shortage of tricks being used by Jobcentre staff as they are forced to hit 'targets' set by the government. In jobcentre parlance it is known as 'spinning plates'. However, using social workers to monitor and watch single-mothers now designated 'troubled families', seems to have worrying connotations. As social workers have 'statutory powers', we could see single-parents having their kids took off them if they don't do enough to find work.

For more about this story see above link.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Scottish Affairs Report: 'Bad Faith'

Unilateral blacklisting compensation scheme an "act of bad faith"

27 March 2015
In its final blacklisting report the Scottish Affairs Committee says The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) launched by eight of the 30 companies involved in blacklisting was introduced in an "act of bad faith".

It says it is difficult to conclude other than that the publicity around the launch was a deliberate attempt to mislead, and that the implication that the trade unions were in agreement with the scheme is both "callous and manipulative".
The Committee says a voluntary code of conduct to eradicate the practice of blacklisting in the future is insufficient, and a statutory code of practice is required.
Although the Committee is highly critical of the scheme and casts doubt over the motivations behind it, it does acknowledge that it is only those eight companies who set up the scheme - out of the 30 known to have used the services of The Consulting Agency (TCA) that ran the blacklisting service - who have taken any steps at all to remedy the sins of the past.

Flaws in the scheme

The Committee identifies a series of flaws in the scheme, including:
  • It was launched without the agreement of the trade unions (and its launch attempted to mask that fact)
  • The low levels of compensation being offered
  • The fact that those participating in the High Court litigation are not eligible to access the scheme
  • The scheme’s failure to incorporate any type of positive action measures to upskill and re-employ the victims of blacklisting

Chair's comments

Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"The unilateral introduction of a compensation scheme was an act of bad faith by those involved, likely to be motivated by a desire to minimise financial and reputational damage rather than being a genuine attempt to address the crimes of the past.
To mislead MPs is a serious issue but to mislead blacklisted workers and their families by implying that the trade unions were in agreement with the scheme is both callous and manipulative.
While we are highly critical of the scheme and the way it was introduced, at least those eight companies have made even this effort. We do not accept the excuses made from the other companies for their non-participation and interpret this as evidence of their unwillingness to self-cleanse.
Despite the grave flaws in the scheme, our main concern is that the victims of blacklisting receive at least some measure of compensation. The ICO should redouble its efforts to find and contact as many of the individuals whose names who were on the original TCA list as possible–including the families of those blacklisted workers who may have passed away.
Given the denial and duplicitous practices we have encountered on the part of many of the companies who were complicit in blacklisting, we have no confidence in the sector to either self-cleanse on a voluntary basis nor to take sufficiently robust steps to eradicate the practice of blacklisting in the future. A voluntary code of conduct for pre-employment vetting in the construction company will not be sufficient. We must have a statutory with those firms who have refused to self-cleanse being banned from all contracts funded, in whole or in part, by public money code of practice.
Despite the progress and positive steps which have been taken during the course of our inquiry, in this final report we have identified that many questions in relation to the practice of blacklisting remain unanswered, including the recent allegations in relation to police and security service involvement in blacklisting in the construction and other sectors.
We are specifically concerned as to whether the extent and breadth of the practice is fully known, and whether this odious practice is ongoing within the construction industry. We are convinced that the only way to fully answer these questions is through a full Public Inquiry and we recommend that the Government take immediate steps to launch one."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto
More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Employment and training, Employment, Employment schemes, House of Commons news, Commons news, Scotland, Committee news

Select Committee on Compensation Con!

1. Select Committee publishes final damning report into blacklisting
The Scottish Affairs Select Committee have published a final report that is absolutely damning of the construction firms involved in blacklisting and their compensation scheme. BSG wish to put on record once again our genuine appreciation for the tremendous work Ian Davidson and all the other MPs on the committee have carried out on behalf of blacklisted workers over the past 3 years.
2. Public Inquiry - Blacklisting / Undercover police
During the debate in House of Commons about police spying on MPs & activists, Home Office Minister Mike Penning confirmed the whistleblowers would be exempted from Official Secrets Act if they give evidence at #spycops public inquiry. This is a massive step forward and hopefully will spur on Peter Francis and other police whistleblowers to come forward.
3. Crossrail sackings & arrests
Protests on Crossrail have been temporarily suspended to allow a window for negotiations between UNITE and the Skanska- Costain joint venture.
Dave Smith was in Court today. The full trial is set for July 23rd at City of London Magistrates Court.
4. Blacklisted book
5. Blacklist Support Group will be promoting the Blacklisted book at various events throughout the summer including CWU, PCS, FBU, GMB conference.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Unite Committee Bin's Blacklist Motion

ORCHESTRATED by the Chair, Sidney Graves, this month, the Local Authority Regional Sector Committee (Risc) of Unite the Union in the North West, binned a motion from the Bury Unite Commercial Branch calling for local Councils in Greater Manchester to halt the awarding of contracts to companies that have been implicated in blacklisting of trade unionists in the British building trade.  Sources close to  Unite have told Northern Voices that Mr. Graves is currently seeking a full-time paid  position in the union and 'does not want to ruffle any feathers'! Certainly throughout the meeting, the Chair made it clear that he had a pressing engagement and wanted to get away by 1.30pm. 

Representatives of Bury Unite at the Liverpool meeting expressed astonishment when the Risc meeting Chairman asked if anyone wanted to discuss the motion on blacklisting and this was met with the silence of the grave.  Shortly before the Chair put this to the meeting Nick Parnell, representing Unite at Manchester City Council, told the meeting that as a Councillor on Bury Council that he had already moved a motion on Bury MBC adopting an 'Ethical Procurement Policy' with regard to awarding contracts in April 2014.  The implication being that Bury Council didn't need another policy on the awarding of contracts to building companies, but he said there may be difficulties in getting Manchester City Council to agree; possibly because the central Manchester Council and figures like Councillor Kieran Quinn the leader of Tameside Labour Council, are already in bed with companies like Carillion through the Greater Manchester Pension Fund.   

Two years ago, another Manchester Council -  Salford City Council also Labour, was challenged with a Unite demo when despite assurances from Ian Stewart that it was against blacklisting when it awarded a contract to a company that had been affiliated to the Consulting Association, a body proved to have been facilitating a blacklist.   

Since the Bury motion was unceremoniously binned by the Unite Risc in Liverpool, Northern Voices has been approached by people in Camden in London, who claim that Ethical Procurement Policies against blacklisting have been adopted down there and that this hasn't stopped contracts being given to dodgy companies.  Furthermore, Northern Voices  has seen the Ethical Procurement policy adopted by the Labour controlled council Bury MBC, and  we feel that it is not fit for purpose.   

Bury Unite Commercial Branch has a particular interest in the under-hand nature of the blacklist and sly surveillance, because ten-years ago a Unite shop-steward at Bury Council and two other binmen were sacked following the use of a hand held camcorder by a council employee under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy of the workers.  The case did not go to Court and the Council ultimately settled out of Court following an expensive award to the shop-steward. 

But remember most of the councils in Greater Manchester that are guilty of being in bed with companies like Carillion are Labour Councils, and it may well be that Unite’s North West Local Authority Unite Risc sitting in Liverpool this month, may not have wanted this matter of Labour Councils awarding contracts to blacklisting companies airing as the election approaches in May.  Even the Blacklist Support Group is supposed to be looking forward to a Labour victory.  So the disgruntled members Bury Unite Commercial Branch should get their priorities right, calm down, and shut-up, until the great Labour leader Ed Miliband is ensconced in office in Downing Street.  And we can look forward to 5-years of a Labour Government.  Until then those who are blacklisted like the rest of us, will just have to wait for their salvation and the instalation of Labour Government under Ed Miliband.  Then perhaps all will be well, and even Mr Sidney Graves, the chairman of the North West Local Authority Risc may get his wish for some kind of stipend.

Simon Danczuk: 'Is ..... homophobia at work'?

by Les May

CYRIL Smith was a homosexual.  That means that for all except the last seven years of his life he lived under restrictions as to his sexual activity which did not apply to mixed sex couples.

The Sexual Offences Act 1967, which applied only to England and Wales, partially decriminalised male homosexuality by giving an exemption from prosecution if both men had attained the age of 21.  Outside this exemption, technically speaking, homosexuality continued to be a punishable offence in, and of itself.  In 1994, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act reduced the age of consent to 18.  Finally the Sexual Offences (Amendment ) Act of 2000 equalised the age of consent at 16 for both homosexual and heterosexual behaviours throughout the UK.  It took until 2003 for the offences of gross indecency and buggery, to be deleted from statutory law meaning that sexual activity between more than two men is no longer a crime in the UK.

As a child in the early 1950s, I well remember my father reading out to my mother the reports in the Rochdale Observer of the trials of what he called the 'bum bandits' who were charged with 'gross indecency', which always seemed to involve the police hanging around public urinals.  Such was the attitude of public and police alike.  Roy Jenkins, usually regarded as a liberal and Home Secretary in 1967, said in the debate, 'those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives'

Were he alive today if my father spoke like that he would be shouted down, not least by Mr Danczuk's 'metropolitan elite', and Roy Jenkins would have to be more careful how he phrased things.  Just beneath this apparent shift in public perceptions, and attitudes is there a 'closet homophobia' at work?

When I read 'Smile for the Camera' by Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker last April, I initially dismissed it as a rehash of a thirty five year old story embedded in a fog of gossip, second and third hand stories and supposition, with little evidence of any systematic research.  But how the authors chose to tell their tale I found disquieting.

One of their stories begins, 'Cyril Smith was into young boys, we all knew that'.  And how did they 'all' know?:   'I distinctly remember conversations in the bar... ' continues their informant.  He goes on to tell them that Smith was detained after he was caught 'in acts of gross indecency with young lads' in toilets which were 'a regular meeting place for homosexuals and young male prostitutes after dark'.

In a few lines we have moved from 'boys' to 'young male prostitutes' and 'acts of gross indecency', an offence that was removed from the statute book in 2003.  So why are they telling us this?  Is it really just a tale of Smith's 'rapacious sexual appetite' or is it intended to awake some latent disgust at Smith's homosexuality? 

What this story does tell us about is the attitude of the police to homosexuals in the 1970s.  It also alerts us to the need to avoid being taken in by vague phrases like 'teenage boys' or 'young boys'.

Another story from the early 1980s involves a Young Liberal who Smith appears to have seduced. In the authors' account he says:  '… I knew his behaviour was wrongVery wrong.' and 'In the years that followed, Cyril repeatedly used me to satisfy his perverse cravings.  He treated me like a sex object…'   Now this was a youth not a child so there is not question of paedophilia.  As we read this, would our feelings be the same if it was about a fifty plus Celia Smith with her 'toy boy'?  Are we being subtly invited to a bit of  'queer bashing'?

If you find such an idea offensive or difficult to believe how about this passage taken from the book?: 'Cyril, he said, liked them young with tight sphincter muscles.  When their sphincter became looser as they got older, he would ditch them'.  And: 'I can't forget the graphic detail,' Foulston tells me, 'I was disgusted.'   Was the intention to leave the reader 'disgusted'?  Would the authors have gone into such graphic detail if Smith had not been a homosexual?

None of these stories lend any support to their claim that Cyril Smith was a paedophile in the usually understood meaning of the term.  But all of them involve behaviours which would have been illegal at any time before 1994 or even the year 2000, and would certainly have attracted police attention.

Like many people in Rochdale I have known of Smith's abuse of power at Cambridge House in the 1960s since the story was published in the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in 1979.  I still need to be convinced that he went on to pursue a career as a paedophile.  The zealousness of the police in pursuing homosexuals in the past, and the gradual changes in the law relating to male homosexuality and the age of consent, need to be borne in mind when we read of police interest in Smith going back to the 1950s, and throughout the 70s and 80s. 

Sun Shaft's Simple Simon!

KATIE Hopkins in today's Sun newspaper writes:  'It seems Simon will do anything for your votes'.   Earlier this week Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale, threw a wobbler and described the leaders of his party, the Labour Party, as 'f**king knob[s]'.

Today, Ms Hopkins in her column in the Sun writes:
'I just don't get it.  Do all Labour leaders have to be covered in sweat and coal dust to be accepted up North?  If they haven't got a pint and a whippet... does that mean they aren't Labour enough to be worth a vote?'

What Katie Hopkins doesn't know is that besides following in the political footsteps of Smith the former MP for Rochdale, who Mr. Danczuk has recently studied in some depth, Simon has for some years been an avid reader of Northern Voices, and apart from some revelations about Cyril Smith which we brought to Danczuk's attention in 2012, the printed version of our journal carries a cartoon entitled 'Willy Echerslike', created by the well known local Stalybridge artist Ken Cookson;  Mr. Echerslike  has the necessary a whippet, cloth cap, and regularly handles a pint of bitter in a way so dear to us Northern working-men.  Clearly Simon has been influenced by what he reads in N.V.!

Ms Hopkins is just as concerned at Simon's sucking up to the Pakistani community, something else the spanker Cyril Smith did in years gone by, and she skewers Danczuk's dilemma when she writes:
'Danczuk only sneaked in by a couple of votes last time so he is scared... He is desperate for votes...  In a last-ditch attempt to keep his seat this year, he did what any sensible politician would do when surrounded by people with loyalty to a country other than the one which pays their benefits.  He raised the Pakistani flag outside the town hall.  Upside down.'

We mustn't forget that Simon Danczuk has made mistakes outside Rochdale Town Hall before, such as in October 2011 when he was filmed wildly applauding the unveiling of a blue plaque to Cyril Smith.  In November 2012 in a speech in the House of Commons, he changed his tune and denounced Cyril as a child abuser.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Call for Freedom Collective to Comment

Editor said...
We, in the Northern Voices' affinity group, would welcome a forensic response or indeed any kind of penetrating challenge to Christopher Draper's long-running critique & postmortem examination of the death of the Freedom newspaper. This could come from the Freedom Press collective or from the Friends of Freedom Press, if this body still functions?

Meeting: Wakefield Socialist History Group

Lindsay Anderson was a British feature film, theatre and documentary director.

He developed a philosophy of the cinema which in the late 50's became known as the "Free Cinema movement."

"Wakefield Express" was commissioned by the paper in 1952 to celebrate its' anniversary. It was meant to be a film showing how the paper was printed.

But at Anderson's behest -as director- it became a much more personal study of the communal life of a group of towns in the West Riding area as the local reporters travelled around the area in search of newsworthy events.

Wakefield Socialist History Group will be showing the film as part of a DEMOCRACY AND THE MEDIA event at the Red Shed, Vicarage Road, Wakefield WF1 1QX on Saturday 18 April. The event starts at 1pm and includes speakers such as Granville Williams from the Campaign for Broadcasting Freedom and Don Mort (father of NUJ chapel at Wakefield Express)

All are welcome. Free admission and free light buffet.

Hope to see you there

Alan Stewart
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Who's a 'F**king Knob'?

SIMON Danczuk doesn't wrap nowt up as they say up North!  Yesterday in the Independent, he said of Harriet Harman's tendency for what called 'double speak':  'if you pardon the language:  "what a f**king Knob".'  He then said that Ms. Harman Labour's deputy leader 'had brought politics into disrepute.'

Some may say that this was a bit of the kettle calling the pan black, given Mr. Danczuk's political demeanour and his wife's even stranger behaviour as a minor celebrity on Twitter, and who knows, perhaps in time on Strictly Come Dancing.  But we must remember that Simon Danczuk is a cookbook politician who has learned his trade in recent times studying Cyril Smith's skills at the political racket.

Hence, when he uses foul language and denounces Ms. Harman he is merely aping Cyril Smith's straight-talking believing that the common man (and woman) in Rochdale and elsewhere likes these kind of rough-arsed frolics with English vocabulary.  After all, he knows better than most, that Cyril not only got away with strong language and course speech for years, but actually rose to some influence on the back of this kind of repartee. 

The trouble, despite the shameful nature of Cyril's conduct in other ways, is that somehow Simon lacks Cyril's charisma and wit.  Cyril was not a great beauty in physical terms, but he had a kind of seductive charm offensive that somehow Simon lacks.  Consequently, Simon Danczuk, who looks a bit like Sancho Panza, has to fall back on his own humble upbringing which he may well in his own mind also use compare with that of Cyril Smith background, to try to boost his appeal to the public.

He may well find that Cyril Smith's political skills are not so easy for him to replicate.

Simon Danzcuk's Lesson: Making Politics Pay!

BELOW the headline “'Emotional' MP rants at 'Toff' Miliband and party 'elite'”, was the
caption alongside a picture of Simon Danczuk on the front page of the Rochdale Observer today.

Now as anyone who knows anything about Mr Danzcuk's less than illustrious career before he became an MP will tell you, he's not exactly a 'horny handed son of toil' in the Ernie Bevin mould. But on this at least he is right, though for all the wrong reasons.

Britain's fundamental problem is that it is on the way to becoming a low income economy for all except a favoured few.  And surprise, surprise, our MPs are amongst those favoured few.

To take one extreme example, after losing the Labour leadership to his younger brother Ed, David Miliband went on to make £985,315 from the public speaking circuit and his work as an adviser in less than three years.  This was in addition to his salary as an MP.

Now Mr Danzcuk isn't in this kind of earnings bracket, yet.  But a quick totting up of his extra parliamentary income last year comes to almost £23,000 plus £2,200 in hospitality for two people. This is in addition to his £66,396 salary as an MP.  And let's not forget the £25,000 or so paid to wife Karen as a 'caseworker'.

Is it any wonder that voters think that MPs of all parties are out of touch with the daily realities of the insecurities which dog the lives of many people?

Les May

Monday, 23 March 2015

Boycott Workfare Action Week: 25 April - 2 May!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from Boycott Workfare:

As the general election campaign gets underway we are already seeing politicians calling for more of the same policies. More workfare. More sanctions. Yet we know that these policies have been a total disaster. It is shameful that workfare and sanctions are supported by all the main political parties. This is why we are holding a week of action in the week before the election. We need your help to expose and challenge workfare and sanctions policies and the political lies that underpin them.

Workfare undermines paid jobs and wages and results in sanctions. It does nothing to improve the chances of people finding a job and exploits those forced to carry it out. Last year over half a million people had their benefits sanctioned. The number of benefit sanctions imposed by the DWP now exceeds the number of fines imposed by the courts. People are being left with nothing for up to three years. There is now overwhelming evidenceof the harm being caused by sanctions. Sanctions are damaging the health of claimants and leading to hunger, homelessness and deaths.

Your actions have already had a huge impact in challenging these policies. Dozens of organisations have withdrawn from the schemes following public pressure. Over 500 voluntary sector organisations have now signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement to say they oppose workfare and sanctions and will not be involved. 25 councils have also said they will boycott the schemes. All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government’s private providers to find workfare placements. Hundreds of placements have been cancelled and your actions have made a real difference.
The week of action is a chance for everyone who opposes workfare and sanctions to demand an end to these cruel policies. However you can contribute join us to take action from 25 April – 2 May:
  • Join in with online actions throughout the week!
  • Ask charities you support to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement!
  • Speak out! Tell those promoting workfare and sanctions what you think of their policies!
  • Hand out our know-your-rights leaflets at your local jobcentre!
  • Plan actions at a workfare exploiter near you!
Remember to let us know what you plan so we can help to publicise it!
Join the Facebook event and invite others to take part too! "

Tussle Over Death of 'Freedom'

IAIN Mckay answers Chris Draper's Critique in an e-mail comment below:
'(CHRIS Draper writes) - Angry members of the collective attempted to portray my critique as mere personal criticism and proffered no substantive refutation'
 I'm glad to see that members of the Freedom collective have echoed my comments on these disgraceful emails being no more than personal attacks.
 I have written for Freedom but never been a member of the collective -- I have always found the editors to be open to printing articles from many viewpoints and they regularly put things into the paper I wish they hadn't.  The notion that Freedom closed its doors to other views is wrong -- it opened them and this seemed bother the reformist-liberals (as can be seen from the quotes from Jonathan Simcock below).
"It appears the destructive implications of regime-change engineered by Toby Crowe were presciently anticipated in Spring 2004 by Jonathan Simcock of Total Liberty in the magazine’s editorial column:   'Sadly, the longstanding flagship of British Anarchist journals, namely FREEDOM, has increasingly abandoned the broader church of Anarchist ideas, and has metamorphosed into a poorer version of Black Flag’.”
 A 'poorer version of Black Flag' is far better than being a poorer version of 'Total Liberty' (which showed how well it knew anarchism by proclaiming the so-called "Libertarian Alliance" as allies!).  As for "the broader church" (church, really?) of anarchism, Freedom regularly put in articles from a wide range of views -- which provoked responses from other readers.
In the following edition, Simcock rammed home his analysis and critique:
'To reach ordinary people Anarchist papers need to re-evaluate Anarchist ideas and to hold an open debate. I am afraid the regular dose of 19th century Marxist and Class Struggle dominated viewpoints to be seen in FREEDOM will repel not attract people to anarchism.  FREEDOM has lost its way.' 
The notion that class struggle has something to do with '19th century Marxist' views is pretty ignorant of the views of the anarchists who founded Freedom in 1886 -- and relaunched it in 1936. It is nice to see that Simcock would not be happy to see Freedom opened up to the likes of, say, Kropotkin...
 And what of 'Total Liberty' ? If this analysis were accurate then that should have gone from strength to strength. If I remember correctly, it became 'Anarchist Voices' -- does that still exist?  I can find issues up to 2010 on-line.  It looks like it "lost its way" long before Freedom did...
As Richard noted, 'Black Flag' is still going and if you want to do something constructive for anarchism in the UK rather than ignorantly slang others off, we would like to hear from you.  It's is, as noted, an anarcho-communist paper -- in the same way that Freedom was when Kropotkin helped found it.
The major problem with the movement seems to be an unwillingness for people to get actively involved in projects -- that is the fundamental reason why Freedom is no more.  Perhaps rather than produce nasty little attacks on individuals, perhaps a more constructive activity could be found? Show us all how it is done... that would be a nice change.

Dave Smith: Charged with Obstruction

Hi Comrades ,
Dave Smith Blacklist support group Secretary was arrested on 18th March, at the Hilton Hotel building awards protest and charged with obstructing a public highway.  Dave has been an incredible stalwart and working class hero all his working life, especially in the last 4 years assisting the construction rank and file. His work to expose Blacklisting has been tremendous . We would be nowhere if it wasn't for Daves determination to expose Blacklisting , he is co author of the new book 'Blacklisted' .
Its high the time the Blacklisters who have ruined 1000s of construction workers lives were charged and arrested for their crimes they are the real criminals not Construction workers !
Please support Dave and show some solidarity for our Brother
Gather outside Marylebone Magistrates Court 181 Marylebone Road NW1 5QJ
FRIDAY 27TH MARCH AT 8AM the case starts at 9am
Please forward to all your Contacts many thanks Steve Kelly , National construction rank and file committee member

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Wakefield History Group: Media & Democracy


A pre-election meeting, DEMOCRACY AND THE MEDIA: Struggles for Media Pluralism Past and Present, will be held on Saturday 18 April at Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 starting at 1pm/finshing about 4pm.

The main speaker will be Granville Williams. He is a member of the National Council of the Campaign for Broadcasting Freedom and also UK Co-ordinator for the European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

His recent book, BIG MEDIA AND INTERNET TITANS, explores the challenges posed to democracy by the concentration of media ownership.

He also edited two books, SHAFTED and SETTLING SCORES about media coverage of the miners' strike.

The other speakers are Don Mort (NUJ) and Alan Stewart (Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group)

We will also be showing Lindsay Anderson's classic 1952 documentary "Wakefield Express."

Admission is free and there will be a free light buffet.

All welcome

Alan Stewart

Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

Rolling Stone at Manchester Royal Exchange

By Chris Urch 
Directed by Ellen McDougall
Designed by Joanna Scotcher 
The Royal Exchange Theatre
St Ann’s Square, Manchester
Tuesday 21 April – Friday 1 May 2015

MANCHESTER Royal Exchange Theatre is set to stage the world premiere of Chris Urch’s Bruntwood Prize winning play THE ROLLING STONE 

Playing in rep alongside ANNA KARENINA - and drawing from the same cast and creative team – the production runs from Tuesday 21 April to Friday 1 May 2015. 

It tells a very different story of lovers at odds with society. The play’s central characters, Dembe and Sam, have been seeing each other for a while. They should be wondering where it is going and when to introduce each other to their families. 

But they’re gay and this is Uganda and the consequences of being discovered will be violent and explosive - especially for Dembe, whose brother goes into the pulpit each week to denounce the evils of one man loving another. 

THE ROLLING STONE won writer Chris Urch a Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2013.

His previous credits include short plays performed at the Bush, Arcola, Soho Theatre, Latitude and the Old Vic (24Hr Plays). He was the first playwright handpicked by Howard Brenton to launch PLAYWRIGHT PRESENTS - a new initiative in which established writers use their stature to help launch the career of a promising new writer.  

From 2012 to 2013 he was resident writer at Theatre 503 where his first full-length play, LAND OF OUR FATHERS, was performed before transferring to the West End - playing at The Trafalgar Studios in 2014.  He is currently on attachment to the National Theatre Studio. 

The cast for THE ROLLING STONE includes Fiston Barek as Dembe; Donna Berlin as Mama Kyeyune; Robert Gilbert as Sam; Faith Omole as Wummie; Sule Rimi as Joe and Ony Uhiara as Naome. 

Director Ellen McDougall received an Olivier nomination for her 2010 production of IVAN AND THE DOGS (ATC, Soho, UK tour and Rustaveli Theatre, Georgia). As well as ANNA KARENINA at the Royal Exchange, recent credits include TELLING TALES (Almeida); PHILOCTETES (Unicorn) SHOWS 1 and 2 (Secret Theatre) for Lyric Theatre Hammersmith; SPRING AWAKENING and IDOMENEUS (Gate Theatre) and NOT NOW BERNARD (Unicorn Theatre and touring). 

The production is designed by Joanna Scotcher and the creative team is completed by Richard Owen (lighting designer), Dave Norton (sound designer) and James Fortune (musical director).

Arrest of Dave Smith on Blacklist Protest

1. Arrest at Crossrail safety / blacklisting protest:
Dave Smith commented:
'Massive 'Thank You' for all the solidarity and support. When multinational construction firms sack our safety reps and collude with the police to blacklist union members, they get away scot free. But if we dare to protest about it, we get arrested.  When I was arrested on Wednesday night, they were attacking our democratic right to peaceful protest. I was taken to Paddington Green police station, that was officially closed at the time and where the Met Police deal with terrorist suspects. I was charged with obstructing the highway and released at midnight.
'Half way through the evening, the attitude of the police officers changed considerably. Suddenly I was offered cups of tea and my lawyer was contactable on the phone (when they couldn’t get hold of him earlier). I imagine this was because of the solidarity from all those who called the police on my behalf. I must especially thank John McDonnell MP for repeatedly chasing the Met on Wednesday night. We often think that those little things make no difference. But I can assure you, it did to me. It gives a boost to know that comrades and friends are covering my back.  
If they thought that by arresting me, that we would go away, they were very much mistaken.'
2. Court of Appeal judgement says agency workers are not protected against blacklisting. Parliament needs to scrap the 'necessity test'
3. Two weeks ago, the Blacklist Support Grop challenged every prospective parliamentary candidate to say where they stand on our call for a full public inquiry into blacklisting. A half-hearted investigation by a senior civil servant at BIS or a QC will not suffice. Only a full Leveson style public inquiry will fully expose the sordid details of this national scandal.
Since then, blacklisting has made front page headlines and had double page spreads in the Guardian, Mirror and Morning Star on multiple occasions. Revelations about undercover police spying on trade unions and the lack of any legal redress via employment tribunals for blacklisted workers is causing waves in the media.
John McDonnell, Ian Davidson, Jim Sheridan, Steve Rotheram, Michael Meacher, Jeremy Corbyn, Neil Findlay and a handful of other principled politicians have made public announcements calling for a full public inquiry into blacklisting. Blacklisted construction workers are the very definition of the core working class vote. A few weeks before the General Election - have any senior politicians got any comment to make about the lack of legal redress, police collusion or the public inquiry?

4.Official Secrets Act
The Official Secrets Act is being used by those in authority to stop police officers talking about child sex abuse by senior politicians, military and security service officers. This is an absolute disgrace!
The ex-undercover police officer turned whistleblower, Peter Francis, who is interviewed in the 'Blacklisted' book is also being threatened with jail if he talks about the role of the police in blacklisting and his own role in spying on trade unions and bereaved relatives such as the Lawrence family. These whistleblowers need to be protected if we are ever going to explode the establishment cover-up. This link is to an online petition to give Peter Francis immunity from prosecution if he gives evidence in a court case or to a public inquiry - BSG urge all our supporters to sign the petition.

5. Blacklisted Book - Reviews & Press:
Some Waterstones shops have sold out of blacklisted book already. The #blacklistedbook selfies are appearing all over social media. Trolls have been busy posting pro-blacklisting messages on book websites and social media. Is this what media consultants get paid for nowadays? Sad people. You can help the campaign by posting messages on websites for newspapers running the story or New Internationalist / Amazon.
6. This week:
Tuesday 24th - 6:30pm - Defend the Right to Protest - SOAS - https://www.facebook.com/events/1566534376937781/
Wednesday 25th - 9am - in support of Cardiff spycops case at Royal Courts of Justice - https://www.facebook.com/events/928272020537838/
Thursday 26th - London Hazards Centre - Blacklisted book event (flyer attached)
Friday 227th - 9am - Westminster Magistrates Court, 181 Marylebone Rd, NW1 5BR - Dave Smith in court.
7. Teeside Activists - there is a major industrial battle brewing in Teesdide over employers attempts to undermine the terms and conditions in the national collective bargaining agreement known as the Blue Book. There have been large scale protests for the past 4-5 weeks. For more info and updates about this weeks demos contact: https://www.facebook.com/teesside.activists

8. Bob Carnegie - legendary Auz union activist - UK Tour
The Australian construction union activist Bob Carnegie is visiting the UK from 9-21 May. Bob was an ex-BLF official and steward on many sites since the 1980s. Last year he was threatened with jail for his role in during a site occupation during a major CFMEU dispute. The Australian unions mobilized thousands in support of him and eventually he was victorious. It is a significant victory for the unions.
Bob will be attending events with the Blacklist Support Group and the Construction Rank & File. If any supporters have pre-panned meetings where Bob could attend and speak, that would be fantastic. Please contact us to arrange.

Bridgewater Soft Drink Dispute

A short walk for workplace justice!
to support Unite the Union members on strike for ten weeks
Assemble Cranleigh Gardens 11.30am
March at 12noon through Eastover and Fore St to Baptist Church, St Mary St, Rally at 1pm
Speakers from Unite the Union, South West TUC, Fire Brigades Union and Bridgwater Trades Union Council
270 workers at the Refresco-Gerber soft drinks factory at Express Park are fighting a David and Goliath struggle against a multi-national company determined to destroy terms and conditions that have been previously negotiated with trade unions without problems for decades. This is a struggle between corporate greed and workplace justice that all Bridgwater people should support. Please join Unite the Union members at Refresco-Gerber, their friends and families on the day!
Organised by Bridgwater Trades Union Council and Unite the Union. Contact Roy Winter on 07720 705087 or roy.winter@unitetheunion.org  

Blacklist Law vs Justice?

Court of Appeal:  David Smith v Carillion

BLACKLIST campaigners have called for parliament to change the law after a Court of Appeal written judgement issued today (17th March 2015) failed to provide justice to an agency worker, even when the company admitted blacklisting.  The Smith v Carillion test case was based on Dave Smith, an engineer and safety rep for the construction union, UCATT, who was kept under surveillance by construction companies and the notorious Consulting Association, the body that orchestrated the building industry blacklist.  Smith was forced to leave the construction industry due to the blacklisting he suffered after complaining about unpaid wages and raising concerns about safety issues such as asbestos and overflowing toilets on building sites under the control of different Carillion Group companies in the 1990s.

The written decision was delivered by Lord Justice Elias, Lord Justice Fulford and Dame Janet Smith.
Paragraph 5 of the judgement noted that: 
'Carillion accepted that Mowlem had provided information about the appellant to the Consulting Association between 1997 and 1999; that it was for the purpose of penalising him for taking part in the activities of an independent trade union and acting as a safety representative; and that the provision of this information caused him a detriment.'  Adding 'the evidence against the company was very powerful.'
*Mowlem now trade as Carillion (JM) Ltd.
But despite this admission by Carillion, Smith still lost the Court of Appeal hearing because he was working on the site via an employment agency and is therefore not protected by UK employment law. Because Smith was not directly employed by the blacklisting firm, he was not covered by the legislation.
Paragraph 22 notes: “It is not against public policy for a contractor to obtain services in this way, even where the purpose is to avoid legal obligations which would otherwise arise were the workers directly employed. That will frequently .. be the reason why the employer enters into a relationship with an agency. A contract cannot be implied merely because the court disapproves of the employer’s objective”.

Smith was defeated by what is known as the "necessity test"which has been developed by legal precedents in Tribunal rulings by judges over the past few years. The effect of the 'necessity test' is to deny any agency worker the right to win a claim for unfair dismissal or in this case, victimisation for raising safety concerns -even when the documentary evidence of wrong doing is overwhelming. 
John Hendy QC acting on behalf of Smith has raised the issue of breaches of Human Rights.
Para 42 of the judgement notes “Section 3 of the Human Rights Act requires courts to interpret legislation so as to give effect to the rights conferred by the Act “so far as it is possible to do so”. In this case the submission is that the acts of the employer amounted to breaches of both Articles 8 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protecting private life and freedom of association respectively; and in accordance with section 3, the courts should construe these domestic statutory provisions so as to give effect to those Convention rights”. 
But again because of the initial hurdle of the 'necessity test' the written judgement declares that "the Human Rights Act has no application to the particular complaints advanced in this case".
In Para 52, the judgement concludes by stating that : the test case“raised interesting and complex issues which may have to be resolved on another occasion”. 
Dave Smith commented:
"What is the point of employment law or the Human Rights Act? Even with mountains of documentary evidence and an admission from the company that they blacklisted me because I was a trade union member who had raised safety concerns, I still cannot win. This might be the law, but it is not justice. 
The endemic use of agency workers, zero hours contracts, umbrella companies and bogus self-employment means that millions of workers are being treated as second class citizens. If agency workers are denied their most basic employment rights and even human rights because of the 'necessity test', which was never introduced by government but is an invention arising from legal precedents by judges, then it is time for parliament to change the law". 
Dave Smith is secretary of the Blacklist Support Group and co-author of the book 'Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists' published this week by New Internationalist. It was at the Smith v Carillion Employment Tribunal in 2012, that the police collusion with blacklisting was first publicly exposed. It was at the book launch for 'Blacklisted' held in parliament last Thursday, that undercover police officer turned whistle-blower, Peter Francis announced that he had spied on six trade unions while working undercover for the Special Demonstration Squad (to be the subject of a public inquiry announced by Teresa May). 
Case No: A2/2014/0395/EAT
Smith (appellant) v Carillion (JM) Ltd (respondent) and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (intervener) 
Legal teams:

Mr John Hendy QC and David Renton (instructed by Declan Owens of Free Representation Unit) for the Appellant

Mr John Bowers QC (instructed by Clarkslegal LLP) for the Respondent

Mr Daniel Stilitz QC and Mr Tom Cross (instructed by Treasury Solicitors) for the Intervener

Friday, 20 March 2015

Anna Karenina at the Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse present

From the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Adaptation by Jo Clifford
 Directed by Ellen McDougall
Designed by Joanna Scotcher

The Royal Exchange Theatre
St Ann’s Square, Manchester
Thursday 19 March – Saturday 2 May 2015

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre launches its new Spring – Summer 2015 Season with Olivier-nominated Ellen McDougall directing Jo Clifford’s stripped back, contemporary adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel ANNA KARENINA – a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse. 

This is the Exchange’s second collaboration with Leeds’ WYP following the huge success of SWEENEY TODD in autumn 2013. ANNA KARENINA runs in The Theatre from Thursday 19 March to Saturday 2 May and transfers to Leeds on Saturday 9 May. 

ANNA KARENINA tells the story of Anna - a dutiful wife and a loving mother. When she meets Alexis Vronsky, she finds she cannot deny the life-affirming truth of her own heart. She quickly realises the conventional world she inhabits is intent on crushing this new life she has discovered within her. 

In a parallel story, Levin is trying to live justly in a social system built on injustice. When his love for a childhood friend ends unhappily, he tries to deny its existence. But like Anna discovers he cannot. 

Tolstoy's epic masterpiece explores what happens when two very different couples grapple with the strongest emotion we humans are capable of feeling – love. 

Ony Uhiara, who takes the title role, was last seen in the world premiere of Rory Mullarkey’s CANNIBALS. Other recent theatre credits include EYE OF A NEEDLE (Southwark Playhouse); IDOMENEUS (Gate Theatre); THE EL TRAIN (Hoxton Hall); ILLUSIONS (Actors Touring Company); SIXTY SIX BOOKS (The Bush Theatre); MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (The Globe). ). Film credits include: VENUS and SIXTY 6 and recent TV credits work includes LAW AND ORDER, STOLEN, WHITE VAN MAN and CRIMINAL JUSTICE. 

The cast also includes Anthony Barclay, Donna Berlin, Claire Brown, John Cummins, Ryan Early, Robert Gilbert, Jonathan Keeble and Gillian Saker 

Olivier-nominated director Ellen McDougall makes her Royal Exchange debut with this fast-moving modern version of one of the greatest novels ever written. 

She received an Olivier nomination for her 2010 production of IVAN AND THE DOGS (ATC, Soho, UK tour and Rustaveli Theatre, Georgia). Other recent credits include TELLING TALES (Almeida); PHILOCTETES (Unicorn) SHOWS 1 and 2 (Secret Theatre) for Lyric Theatre Hammersmith; SPRING AWAKENING and IDOMENEUS (Gate Theatre) and NOT NOW BERNARD (Unicorn Theatre and touring). 

Writer Jo Clifford is the author of over 70 plays, many of which have been performed all over the world. These include LOSING VENICE, EVERY ONE, FAUST, THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE and GREAT EXPECTATIONS). Last year she revived her GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN. 

Playing alongside ANNA KARENINA, 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting winner THE ROLLING STONE by Chris Urch receives its world premiere in The Theatre from Tuesday 21 April to Friday 1 May 2015. 

Also directed by Ellen McDougall – and drawing from the same cast and creative team - it tells a very different story of lovers at odds with society.  

Dembe and Sam have been seeing each other for a while. They should be wondering where this is going and when to introduce each other to their families. But they’re gay and this is Uganda and the consequences of being discovered will be violent and explosive.

Both productions are designed by Joanna Scotcher. The creative team is completed by Lizzie Powell (lighting), Tom Gibbons (sound) and Wilkie Branson (movement).