New Labour and Tories unite against workers rights

First, the honorable men and women who voted to strenghen the rights of working people:

Richard Burden, Ronnie Campbell, Mick Clapham, Katy Clark, Frank Cook, Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Cousins, Jon Cruddas, John Cummings, Dai Davies, David Drew, Bill Etherington, Mark Fisher, Paul Flynn, George Galloway, Neil Gerrard, Ian Gibson, Roger Godsiff, Dai Havard, Kate Hoey, Paul Holmes, Brian Iddon, Eric Illsley, Glenda Jackson, Brian Jenkins, Lynne Jones, John Leech, Elfyn Llwyd, Andrew Mackinlay, Gordon Marsden, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Chris McCafferty, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Andrew Miller, Austin Mitchell, Doug Naysmith, Dr Nick Palmer, Andrew Pelling, Adam Price, Gwyn Prosser, Linda Riordan, Jim Sheridan, Alan Simpson, Marsha Singh, Dennis Skinner, Ian Stewart, Richard Taylor, Paul Truswell, Bob Wareing, Hywel Williams, David Winnick, Tony Wright, Andrew Dismore, David Taylor

Second, René Lavanchy reports on the shameful affair in the Tribune:

GORDON BROWN faced down the biggest backbench revolt of his premiership this week as 44 MPs voted against the Government in support of an amendment to the Employment Bill that would boost trade union rights.

Ministers also faced down a challenge to the bill that would strengthen unions’ powers to expel members of the British National Party and other extremist political parties.

Labour’s John McDonnell put forward an amendment, supported by the TUC and all its member unions, which would have made it easier for unions to ballot their members for industrial action by requiring employers to help them collect the contact details of their members.

But opposition from ministers and the Tories – together with a three-line Labour whip – meant he was heavily defeated.

Mr McDonnell said afterwards: “This is a huge rebellion in a by-election week and sends out the clearest possible signal to the Government that we are not doing enough on trade union rights.

“Our supporters will not understand why the Government is prepared to fall over backwards to rescue the bankers but will do nothing to protect workers as the recession begins to bite.”

The Conservatives vigorously opposed the amendment, with shadow business minister Jonathan Djanogly saying: “Here the true face and belief of the hard left of the Labour party is exposed and it is not a pretty sight for business.”

This is the third time Mr McDonnell has sought to overturn restrictions on trade union activity. Last year, his trade union freedom bill was twice talked out of Parliament.

In debate, Mr McDonnell and his supporters were at pains to argue that unions are unfairly hamstrung because industrial action can be thwarted on legal technicalities, such as failing to ballot every single member.

Labour MP Andrew Dismore said: “When people change their address, they almost always notify their employer, but nearly always forget to tell their trade union. In these days of postal ballots, how on earth is the union to get the ballot papers to the members if they do not register their addresses?”

Employment minister Pat McFadden said that current legislation allowed courts to overlook “small accidental failures” by a union to follow balloting rules. But Andrew Miller replied that in several court cases, judges had not used that option.

Mr McDonnell withdrew his other amendments, which would have restricted employers’ powers to sack striking workers and banned them from using agency staff to replace them.

Immediately afterwards, MPs debated another amendment which sought to write into law a European Court of Human Rights judgment, which said that trade unions have the right to choose their own members. The case was brought by train drivers’ union ASLEF in 2005 against BNP member Jay Lee, whom they had expelled.

But Tony Lloyd, the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party who brought the amendment, withdrew it in the face of insufficient support.

The Government insists that the bill as it stands does implement the court ruling, but ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman called their refusal to change the bill “plain daft”.

Balls to a living wage, says Labour

Ed Balls talking balls:

THE CHILDREN’S Secretary, Ed Balls, last week attacked the concept of a London living wage, which is currently set at £7.45 an hour as the recommended minimum wage needed for survival in the capital.
The idea was introduced by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone in recognition that living costs in the capital – especially housing – are significantly higher than in most other places and that the minimum wage level, which at £5.73 is too low anyway, is totally inadequate in London.
Livingstone’s successor Boris Johnson has also declared his support for the London living wage and has promised it will be paid to all staff employed by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. It has already led to the promise of a big pay rise for thousands of cleaners on the London underground from next year.


Now Ed Balls is claiming that it would be “artificial, inflationary” and not “necessary or appropriate”.

“An artificial ‘living wage for London’ could distort labour markets and prove poor value for money. Moreover, in seeking to reflect perceptions of the cost of living, this proposal could also raise inflation expectations at a time when increased vigilance is needed on inflationary risks. We do not believe it is necessary or appropriate.”
Ball’s stance has attracted criticism from poverty charities, businesses and unions representing low-paid workers for the government’s stance on the London living wage.
Mark Donne, the director of the Fair Pay Network said: “It is extremely disappointing, particularly from a children’s minister, yet perhaps not entirely surprising that such senior government figures have taken this view on the living wage. “The London living wage is extremely popular with the London electorate and cities such as Oxford, Norwich and Leeds are keen to follow suit.
“In both the moral and business cases, the national minimum wage, and indeed the living wage where implemented have lifted low paid people from poverty and bolstered local economies.”
The network represents charities ranging from Oxfam to the Child Poverty Action Group and the TUC.
Guy Stallard, the director of facilities for the management accountants KPMG, a company that employs more than 123,000 people, said: “We have found that paying the living wage is a smart business move as increasing wages has reduced staff turnover and absenteeism, whilst productivity and professionalism has subsequently increased.”
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, which represents 1.3million workers in public services, said: “A shocking 40 per cent of London’s children live in poverty, which means that millions of families in the city are struggling to make ends meet. The London living wage is a real opportunity to help these families cope with the high cost of living in the capital – and Ed Balls is only going to make their situation worse with his attack on decent pay.”


A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said: “If the government is serious about tackling the capital’s obscene levels of poverty and deprivation, then it would join me in urging all London employers to accept the London living wage as the basic pay rate.

“London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live and work and it is not only morally right to pay the living wage but also makes good business sense, contributing to better recruitment and retention of staff, higher productivity and a more loyal workforce with high morale.”

It would appear that the Greens are redder than Labour when it comes to the living wage:

Green Councillor Jenny Jones has successfully passed a motion to make Southwark Council a Living Wage employer, at a full Council meeting on Wednesday 5th of November

The motion commits the Council to paying all staff, including sub-contracted staff, the London Living Wage and to use local strategic partnerships and other private sector engagements to promote the living wage more widely. Proposed by Green Councillor and London Assembly Member, Jenny Jones, the motion passed with support from Labour, despite hostility from Lib Dem Councillors.
Southwark is only the second Borough to adopt official policy backing a Living Wage, with Lewisham being the other where there are 6 Green Party Councillors.

The Living Wage is the real minimum rate of pay that enables a worker to provide a decent standard of living for themselves and their family. In London, the Living Wage currently stands at £7.45 per hour. The background to this figure can be found in the document, A Fairer London: The Living Wage in London (GLA 2008). Many service sector workers – including cleaners, security guards and catering staff – experience low pay and difficult, sometimes exploitative working conditions. It is estimated that in London alone 400,000 people fall into this working poverty trap.

Jenny Jones stated, “The Green Party has supported the London Living Wage from the outset and will continue to fight for all organisations to ensure that their staff are not receiving poverty pay.”