Greens call for united public sector strike

Reading this, I wonder, could the Greens be the next party of labour in England?

Greens support united strike action over public sector pay
24th Jul 2008

Greens call on public sector unions to work together to defeat pay cuts.

Derek Wall, the Green Party’s Male Principal Speaker, has called for trade unions to put increased pressure on the Government and public sector employers by uniting to carry out strike action, in opposition to attempts to impose pay cuts.

Last week over 500,000 local government workers across the country – including care assistants, refuse collectors, cleaners, teaching assistants and social workers – took industrial action because employers are attempting to impose pay cuts. The employers “final offer” amounted to just 2.45 per cent, whilst food prices have risen over 9 per cent in the last year and energy bills by 15 per cent.

In the wake of a national two-day walkout by UNISON and Unite last week, many union activists are discussing the potential for joint action between unions across different sectors.

In Scotland, a local government dispute is likely to lead to strike action, whilst a decision by the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Teachers resolved to ballot for further discontinuous strike action in late September. Civil servants union, the PCS, is also to ballot its public sector membership for twelve weeks of discontinuous action. In June, delegates of the Communications Workers Union voted unanimously for strike action against pension cuts, post office and mail centre closures, and up to 40,000 job losses.

Derek Wall stated, “What public sector workers are asking for is entirely fair – that they are not forced to pay for economic problems which they are not responsible for.”

“Further strike action is being planned now and Greens believe that this should be coordinated between trade unions as much as is possible.”

“United action can force the hand of the employers and overturn their plans to impose pay cuts. All public sector workers deserve a pay rise not only to cover inflation, but to make up for 10 years of below inflation pay deals, which are pay cuts in all but name.”

The Green Party has a record of championing trade union activism, from defending attacks on public services to advocating the repeal of the anti-trade union laws introduced by the Conservatives and left in place by Labour. On the London Assembly, Green Party Members were integral in establishing the Living Wage Unit aiming to lift London’s lowest paid workers out of the poverty trap.

A health service, if you can keep it

What a gift this would be:

A 60th birthday present for the NHS
2nd Jul 2008

— an end to Labour’s privatisation

On the 60th anniversary of the NHS, the Green Party has called for a return to its original principles of public provision of healthcare, run for patients not profit, and free at the point of need. Greens will be joining the Keep Our NHS Public protest outside the Department of Health at Richmond House on Friday 4th July at 4pm.

Green Party Principal Speaker Derek Wall said:

“Nye Bevan’s legacy is being dismantled slowly and deliberately under New Labour’s privatisation agenda. Brown has mortgaged our health with PFI, and handed cash intended for healthcare over to corporate shareholders. His latest idea of closing GP surgeries and replacing them with privatised polyclinics is shocking but not surprising.

“Our birthday present to the NHS must be to turn this around, restore its founding principles, and kick out the corporate profit makers. That means keeping our hospitals public, ending the closure of GP surgeries, and properly valuing the staff of this defining public service.

“The modernisation of the NHS should strengthen, not dismantle, its public service ethos. Local health centres should bring more services from major hospitals closer to patients, not hoover up GP surgeries and make services more remote. Co-operation, not competition, should guide the development of our health service, and patients should control their treatment through a genuine partnership with their doctor, not a bewildering and wasteful internal market.”

Respect for the Shell strikers

From the website:

Respect MP George Galloway has today offered full support to the Shell tanker drivers, members of the Unite union, who have begun a four day strike.

“No one takes the decision to strike lightly,” he said. “Anyone who’s ever lost a day’s pay by taking industrial action will know what the tanker drivers have gone through to reach this point.

“Their strike deserves the support of working people across Britain, whose pay is being held down below the true rate of inflation. Instead of macho posturing, as he’s doing over our civil liberties, Gordon Brown would be better off ensuring fair pay for the tanker drivers, who after all work in an industry that is making record profits from the price of oil.”

Galloway has written to the Unite union and to tanker drivers offering support from Respect.

Message of support:

The billionaire-owned press and politicians from all the establishment parties seem to think that workers who transport fuel don’t have to pay for it at the pump or through soaring prices for food and domestic heating.

Of course you do. And like the rest of us you are fleeced by the robber barons of the oil industry, only for you it’s twice over.

I and Respect know you have not decided to strike lightly. You are fully justified in taking action to achieve long overdue pay increases – which are needed now to keep pace with inflation. The Bank of England has acknowledged that it is not the pay of working people that is driving inflation. Rather it is the greed of companies such as Shell who are profiteering from the price of oil.

In any sane society you would have decent pay, pensioners would not be frightened to turn the heating on in winter for fear of the bills, and our scarce natural resources would be husbanded carefully to meet the needs of everyone on the planet and future generations.

Instead, we’ve got obscene profits alongside rising prices, repossessions, job insecurity and stress.

It’s not only the whole trade union movement who should back you. It is everyone who is hit by the rising cost of a loaf of bread or a packet of rice; the majority of people in Britain who spend most of their income on food and fuel. The lorry owners have something to fall back on. Those who work for a living have nothing except their ability to stand together for the common good.

In pursuing this entirely justified action for decent pay you are not only helping yourselves and your families; you are providing an example for everyone else. If you win, the teachers in your children’s schools might feel emboldened to take further action for decent pay and proper funding for education; others might fight for the pay & resources that will stop vital staff from leaving our public services.

The zealots of failed free market economics say that this will lead to a wage-price spiral. Well it won’t do if the government stepped in to control prices, to prevent profiteering, just as we did in previous national emergencies, just as we did during the Second World War.

This government says we should lock people up for 42 days on the grounds of national security. If they were sincere about that, they’d be banging up the saboteurs who run the oil and gas companies. But all the establishment parties are happy for us to be held hostage by the corporations.

Respect doesn’t agree. And we support you 100 percent.

In solidarity,
George Galloway MP

The Green Party has also backed the action by tanker drivers:

principal speaker Caroline Lucas MEP has pledged the party’s support for the pay claim of the Shell contract drivers […] She also reiterated the Greens’ policy to levy a windfall tax on oil profits to pay for investment to lower fuel bills. […]

“The drivers have our unreserved support in their pay claim. As the demand for oil outstrips supply, Shell profits have soared to £14billion a year – they can afford to pay fair wages. Instead, they choose to squeeze workers for everything they can get.

“It’s about time oil corporations were held to account. They are the winners from the fuel crisis. As pensioners struggle to keep warm, workers have their wages driven down and people worldwide fall victim to deadly floods, storms and droughts, the oil bosses pat each other on the back and award themselves another bonus.

“Shell should stump up, pay their hauliers properly right now, and end this strike. Then they should expect a windfall tax on their enormous profits, gained at the expense of ordinary people. We need warm homes, proper public transport and efficient freight transfer, and the oil profiteers should be paying for it.”

GMB cuts Labour funding – but is there an alternative?

The Beeb reports:

The GMB union has voted to cut funding to a third of the 108 Labour MPs it sponsors, saying they have failed to back its policies.

It also said it would ask its 600,000 members if they wanted to reduce the £1.2m funding for the Labour Party.

The union discussed its links with Labour at its conference in Plymouth.

General secretary Paul Kenny said he had been “weighing” up the performance of MPs, who could lose up to £20,000 a year if funding is cut.

The union was no longer prepared to finance MPs who treated workers with “contempt”, he added.

‘Performance-related pay’

The vote came as fire-fighters, prison officers, teachers, civil servants and other public sector workers joined a TUC rally in Westminster to press the government to make sure their pay keeps up with the rising cost of living.

Outlining his members’ grievances, Mr Kenny said those targeted would be MPs who had failed to support union policies, had not responded to requests for help or had not engaged with local branches.

“The intention is not to cut funding overall; it’s to divert it to areas where frankly people are doing a job of work,” he told the BBC.

“The government is very keen on testing for everybody, performance-related pay, and we’ve applied in the GMB over the last 12 months exactly the same principle.

“We’ve examined the records of MPs both at local level and national level and many are doing a fantastic job, but there are a number who seem at times to be embarrassed by their relationship with the union.

“We don’t want to embarrass them by giving them union money.”


Instead the GMB plans to put more cash into encouraging its members to take more control over constituency parties so the union has more influence over party policies.

Mr Kenny also warned the union could scale down the size of its funding for Labour – although it has ruled out of order a motion urging the GMB to disaffiliate from Labour.

He said he expected there would be “huge anger” among delegates over policies on taxation, public sector pay, executive bonuses, social housing and other issues.

One motion called for the GMB to give an ultimatum as to whether to give continued support to Labour because of unhappiness about the so-called Warwick Agreement – the deal reached before the last election between unions and the party – has not be implemented in full.

Another motion said: “The congress notes with disgust the continuing failure of the Labour Government to adequately represent the interests of working people.”

The Labour Party has become more reliant on union funds as donations from individuals have dropped following the cash-for-honours row and falling opinion poll ratings.

The TUC rally comes after a survey of 2,100 adults suggested that most believe it is unfair for public sector workers to receive lower wage increases than staff in private firms.

In the past, Kenny has suggested that the GMB fund Plaid in Wales and the SNP in Scotland if there’s no change of course within Labour. But what of an alternative political party in England? The GMB, and the labour movement, is getting overtures from the Green Party:

“We need each other,” Green MEP tells trade unionists
9th Jun 2008

Caroline Lucas speech aims to unite environmental and labour movements

Green politics must involve trade unions to ensure that the response to climate change advances social justice and equality, Caroline Lucas MEP will tell activists at the GMB union’s annual congress in Plymouth today.

In a discussion on ‘climate change and jobs,’ Dr Lucas will argue that the labour and environmental movements need to work together to acheive their goals, and that the Green Party’s role is to unite the two.

Commenting ahead of the session, Dr Lucas said:

“More secure, fulfilling jobs; stronger communities; social justice. That’s the Green response to climate change. Panic, blame, and regressive taxes: that’s Brown.

“Not only is the Green response more desirable, it’s also the only one that can succeed. A zero-carbon world and a socially just one will happen together, or not at all.

“To acheive our goals, the labour movement and the environmental movement must realise that we need each other. The Green Party, with roots in both, is the ideal matchmaker.

“We need to work together to demand support for the renewables industry that could provide thousands of new, highly-skilled and secure jobs but is being neglected by government. We need to work together to make a warm, energy efficient home a right, and abolish fuel poverty. And we need to work together for an economy that exists for people, not the other way round.”

Heathrow: making a noise, not a 3rd runway

A stunning protest – memorable as much for the participation of the Archbishop of Canterbury (not in person, mind!) as for the giant NO -which sadly lacked an exclamation mark, but then again, you don’t want to be too demanding on a demonstration ;-)

The Morning Star reports:

Thousands protest at Heathrow expansion
(Sunday 01 June 2008)

LABOUR MP John McDonnell warned on Saturday that a third Heathrow runway would cause “devastation” as he joined thousands of campaigners in a protest against expansion of the west London airport.

Stilt-walkers, brass bands and people in fancy dress were among the hundreds of protesters creating a carnival-like atmosphere for the Make a Noise event.

The demonstrators walked from Hatton Cross to Sipson, the village that will be lost if plans for a third runway go ahead.

At Sipson, the protesters gathered in a field to form a huge “NO” that was visible to passing aircraft.

Sipson locals fear the loss of as many as 4,000 homes if the expansion is approved. They also say that over 2 million people will be exposed to greater noise and air pollution.

Politicians and environmentalists addressed the crowds as the bands played.

Hayes and Harlington MP Mr McDonnell, who was among those leading the protest, said: “This demonstration will show the government the strength of feeling against Heathrow expansion, not just from local people but from community organisations and environmental groups from across London and the whole country.”

Environmentalists warned that a third runway would contribute to global warming.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven, who joined the march from Hatton Cross station to Sipson, said: “There is no need whatsoever for a third runway.

“If everybody took trains to Manchester, Paris, Scotland and Brussels, rather than flying, then a third runway would not need to be built.”

Many people also travelled from across Europe to be part of the demonstration.

Anna Serdaris, from Athens, said: “We have the same problem at Athens airport and I felt I needed to show my support.

“It’s ironic that I’ve had to fly here this morning to protest against airport expansion, but people need to listen!”

Also in the demonstration was a French contingent protesting against a new airport being built in the city of Nantes.

Laymond Beranger said: “Again, we have the same thing happening in my city and I knew that I had to come to London to protest. We must be united.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams also sent a message of support.

“Concern for our environment is a clear imperative arising from the respect we owe to creation and to each other,” he said.

“So questions of airport expansion, like all developments that risk increasing the damage we do to our global environment, which still impacts hardest on the poorest, cannot be considered uncritically or in a morality-free zone.”