Archives For March 2014

1) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – Employment in 2014 – 24/04/2014

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We announced our first live debate in collaboration with Inner City Theatre last week. On 24th April at Hoxton Hall, we tackle employment in 2014 in an environment of wage pressures, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and continuing unemployment. We aim to start the conversation on the ground with an audience, panel and some UK artists, and without the usual question-avoiding officialese of usual political debates.

We are pleased to announce our panellists as follows:

Natalie Bennett – Leader, Green Party

Thomas Barlow – Equalities Officer, Greater Manchester Union

Kam Sandhu – Founder, RealFare

YEUK representative – Youth Employment UK

If you want to attend, the tickets are free for unwaged and £5 for waged. You must register first by emailing admin@innercitytheatre.co.uk to save your place.

Please see our trailer here:

 

2) ATOS quits fit-to-work tests

French healthcare company ATOS, who were awarded the £500m contract to administer all fit-to-work tests until next August, will end their contract early, the government have announced.

With mounting call and evidence from campaigners and many sick and disabled people up and down the country that ATOS were wrongfully administering the test and results, leading to inhumane and stressful consequences for those facing the tests, the company have decided to exit the contract by early next year. They will receive no compensation for doing so, and have agreed a penalty payment with government.

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However, whilst many charities and campaigners welcome the exit of ATOS, they say the whole system needs overhauling, rather than continuing with the same tests with another company.

Last year, the Work and Pensions Select committee backed this by saying the responsibility for problems with the fit-to-work tests and their administration “lay firmly with the DWP” but that the department was failing to “apply sufficient rigour or challenge to ATOS.”

Read more about this story.

3) Low Income families increase debt by 29% in six months to deal with welfare reforms

Low income families are increasing their debt by £52 a week after being hit by welfare reforms, wage pressures and the rising cost of living, according to research from a poverty project.

“The project found that the average household debt stood at just under £3,000, up by 29% since October, equivalent to £670. Families were typically spending £34 a week repaying debts, from an average income among those surveyed of £176 a week.”

The findings are the third instalment of six, from the Real Life Reform project which examines the financial and social changes and behaviours of up to 100 households.

Andy Williams, chair of the Real Life Reform steer group said:

“In our first report in September, people said they’d resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.

“Nearly eight out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food.”

Read more about this story.

4) MPs approve welfare cap

The permanent welfare cap was voted through on Thursday by a vote of 520 to 22. 13 Labour rebels defied Ed Miliband by voting against it. See their names here. It was thought there would have been more rebellions against the cap but the vote fell on the same day as Tony Benn’s funeral and some were absent. It is thought others were convinced to vote for it, as the level of the cap could be adjusted as Labour sees fit should they get in at the next election.

However, Save The Children have warned that the cap will push 345,000 children into poverty. The cap excludes Jobseeker’s Allowance and the state pension, so will pressurise working benefits – affecting families across Britain.

Will Higham, the charity’s director of UK poverty, said: “Parties need to explain how they will work to improve wages and welfare to ensure that work pays. Otherwise, the vote will become a straitjacket, binding future governments from taking action to stem a rising tide of child poverty.”

Image: The Drum

Image: The Drum

Read more about this story here.

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So your favourite ginger bearded polemicist has been away for three weeks – researching important things in Mexico, and writing about Comrade Bob. But I am back, and we’ve got a lot to cover so let’s check it out!

REGULARS

Liberty

In one of the most appallingly vicious acts of counter productive stupidity, a blanket ban on giving prisoners books has been introduced by professional arse face Chris Grayling.

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Image: johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Image: johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

And in Spain massive peaceful protests are met with blanket violence, though don’t kid yourself this is just something that happens in other countries…

Economics (not boring I promise!)

As ever, we are trying to make money real with this section, and what is more real than realising you would be £44k better off if we didn’t create a housing bubble that only benefits rich landlords!

Also let’s think seriously about the living wage, this is a basic concept that should be a right for all.

Maybe we should conceive of government differently:

Image: Anonymous ART of Revolution

Image: Anonymous ART of Revolution

or not conceive of government at all?!

Because let’s face it, whilst five families own more than 20% of us we are never going to have a government that represents us…

Oh and by the way – those new jobs (the shit zero hour ones that supposedly show that we are in recovery) 80% were created in London – SO FUCK YOU NORWICH!

Environment

In the wake of the floods nobody mentioned this in the mainstream news. In fact, this only made the comment is free section, but we essentially paid farmers to flood our homes.

Fracking is still centre of the agenda for this government and globally, so maybe we should take a moment to enjoy this fantastic video by Green Goyo, who proves that actually fracking is good for everyone!

I don’t want to go into it too much more, as next week we will be releasing our first RealFare video on the Barton moss protest camp, but suffice it to say that what people have had to go through to stop their water being polluted and their land forever damaged has been unnaturally brutal.

Debates coming up

Europe is going to inevitably dominate the news at some point, so it is worth mentioning that if you like UKIP because you are anti-Europe and yet at the same time believe in things like renationalising the railways, maybe you should have a look at someone else

And good news for the UK weapons industry is bad news for everyone else.

Image: Occupy London

Image: Occupy London

 

Good news!


Half the cases against anti-fracking protestors have been dropped  – because, of course, they are bullsh**T – one day I will be able to report people protested and didn’t get arrested at all…

And Bez brought anti Fracking protestors vegan beer!

Stewart Lee does one of the most left-field deconstructions of the Tory party I’ve come across…

Depression has been radicalised

The planet may be fucked – but shareholders had a brief honeymoon period!

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And according to NASA the only way to save humanity is Communism!

Thomas Barlow

 

 

RealFare and Inner City Theatre Co-Production
REAL TALKS presents:

‘A Job’s Worth’

A unique night of performance and debate.

Alongside some of the UK’s most varied and vibrant artists, and hand picked
specialist guest speakers, RealFare and Inner City Theatre invite local voices
and the audience to get involved and have their say on the issue of
employment in 2014.
________

Why do people work? What should work, a job, employment, give a person?
Is it a career? Security? A route out of poverty? A means to pay bills and
living costs? A car or a house? Independence?

What happens when years of expensive higher education, £30,000 debt and
months of free work experience don’t guarantee a minimum wage job?

What happens when people can’t move out of home because zero hour
contracts mean they don’t know if they have work or income from week to
week?

What happens when wages stay so low that millions of people in work are still
living in poverty?

What happens to paid jobs when ‘work for the dole’ policies force people to
work for free?

What happens when there are 5 people for every vacancy, but you get called
a scrounger for being unemployed?

What should work, employment, a job, give a person?

There are 2.3 million unemployed working age people in the UK. An extra
1.46 million are underemployed — in work with not enough hours. What
happens when there aren’t enough jobs?

We want a debate. We want an alternative. We want change.

Info on speakers and artists to follow.

Be part of the debate on 24th April at Hoxton Hall

E-mail admin@innercitytheatre.co.uk for more info and to register

Tickets:

Unwaged – Free
Waged – £5

Image: Coalition of Resistance

Image: Coalition of Resistance

From Boycott Workfare:

“Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.

“But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching on 1 April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

“This new workfare scheme is part of a raft of draconian measures, misleadingly called “Help to Work”, which are designed to increase sanctions (benefit stoppages) and undermine wages still further.

“For the workfare schemes to happen, they need places to send people, but tens of large charities have already quit. Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. Liverpool CVS has condemned the scheme in the strongest possible terms.

“Our action can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting forced unpaid work and make sure this new scheme falls flat on its face. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.”

Find out more here.

The Artist Taxi Driver on the latest statistics on the Work Programme – “The work programme is doing worse than if the government did nothing at all.”

1) DWP to axe Universal Jobsmatch following ridicule for fraudulent posts

The DWP are drawing up plans to axe the maligned Universal Jobsmatch site after investigations have revealed the site has had thousands of fake jobs posted in an attempt to extract money from jobseekers through fake credit or security checks.

The website has also been ridiculed for it’s postings which have included ” MI6 “target elimination specialist” and “international couriers” for CosaNostra Holdings, as well as listings for pornographic websites.”

Documents obtained by The Guardian suggest the website, which is a mandatory sign up for jobseekers, could be dismantled when the contract of service comes up for renewal in 2 years.

Frank Field MP who has lead some of the research into the site is now pressing the National Audit Office for a new investigation as the site is “bedevilled with fraud.”

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Read more about this story.

2) Five richest families in UK have the more wealth than poorest 20% combined

Oxfam released the following information last week:

“Just five families in the UK are richer than the 12.6 MILLION poorest Brits. Inequality like this is a massive problem, but it’s far from inevitable – it’s a result of political choices that can be reversed.

“It’s time for change, and we’re determined to tackle inequality head on. Help us by SHARING this post to spread the word about the injustice of inequality on our doorstep.”

Image: Oxfam

Image: Oxfam

3) Osborne delivers budget for the haves and PR gaffe ensues

George Osborne delivered yet another budget that ignores the millions of people most in need of help from growth. Concentrating on savings, pensions and those already much better off, the financial plans seemed to serve the ‘haves’ as Julia Unwin stated in the Jospeph Rowntree response to the budget:

“This is a Budget for the people who already have, not for the people who need to benefit most from the return to growth. It is a lost opportunity for the 13 million people in poverty who need active intervention to tackle the structural barriers that keep them in poverty.

People on low incomes are unlikely to see the welcome  benefits of growth unless there is targeted help with household and housing costs, with child care and with the nature of jobs and training. The expense and inefficiency of high levels of poverty continue to put a drag on growth.”

A PR campaign ensued highlighting the ‘benefits’ the budget would give people in the form of beer (1p off the pint) and bingo (lowering tax) with the Conservative party shouting they were helping “hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.”

Imgae: The Telegraph

Imgae: The Telegraph

The above poster was released and re-tweeted with warnings like “this is not a parody.” Comparisons were drawn to Orwellian prophecies and many said the use of “they” was patronising as though the Tory party saw themselves as a cut above the masses. However, the most embarrassing element came from the Twiitersphere as the #torybingo hashtag began climbing the top trends with things like:

Screen shot 2014-03-23 at 14.31.52

There was a call for Tory Party Chairman, Grant Shapps to be sacked following the gross mis-judgement of the campaign. But it has turned out it was the briefcase bearer himself, George Osborne who signed off the design with some reporting he was very “enthusiastic” about it. 

Read more about this story here.

4) Warren Buffet agrees with Economists in predicting a stock market crash in 2014

Warren Buffet, along with other economists who predicted the 2008 crash, is now forewarning of a further crash this year.

Buffet and agreeing colleagues say we are living in a “financial asset bubble” and we should not be surprised that it will burst.

Image: Incolo

Image: Incolo

However, as opposed to looking at this prospect with fear, some such as Zero Hedge, say we need to look at this more optimistically:

“The world is not coming to an end. It’s going to reset. There’s a huge difference between the two.

“Think about the system that we’re living under.

“A tiny elite has total control of the money supply. They wield intrusive spy networks and weapons of mass destruction. The can confiscate the wealth of others in their sole discretion. They can indebt unborn generations.

“Curiously, these are the same people who are so incompetent they can’t put a website together.

“It’s not working. And just about everyone knows it.

“We’re taught growing up that ‘We the People’ have the power to affect radical change in the voting booth. But this is another fairy tale.

“Voting only changes the players. It doesn’t change the game.

“Technology is one major game changer. The technology exists today to completely revolutionize the way we live and govern ourselves.

“Today’s system is just a 19th century model applied to a 21st century society. I mean– a room full of men making decisions about how much money to print? It’s so antiquated it’s almost comical.

“But given that the majority of Western governments borrow money just to pay interest on money they’ve already borrowed, it’s obvious the current game is almost finished.

“When it ends, there will be a reset… potentially a tumultuous one.

“This is why you want to have a plan B, and why you don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket.”

Read more about this story here.

The Orwellian Prophecy

kamsandhu —  March 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

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From UK Uncut:

“1p off a pint.

“They think that makes up for £25bn tax dodged by the super-rich, for selling off the NHS, for chucking people out of their homes, for all the people forced to rely on foodbanks, for cutting our libraries, schools and social security etc etc etc

“Like Grant Shapps said, please share to spread the word.”

In a new feature on RealFare we will be exploring ‘The Alts,’ or the alternatives, that are happening all over the UK and the world. Politicians would like you to think they have no other choice when making cuts or harmful policies, and there is a media campaign that supports that. But, if we step outside this tunnel vision of how things are, we may find the choices made are not always so unavoidable. In the first piece, we talk about Germany and attitudes towards civil liberties….

The coalition have garnered an environment and an attitude that completely blindsides the elements of life that are immeasurable and intrinsic to living. The political and media campaign to blacken the names and lives of an ever extending group of people at the bottom of the social ladder for not working, or not working enough, is, without hyperbole, enslaving us under the Prime Minister’s guise of a ‘moral mission.’

The suggestion of the political line is that only those in work are ‘good.’ Only the “hardworking” or “in work” can feel any sense of moral high-ground. Suspicion is instilled against anyone who can’t or is not in work, however unable they are, and indeed, at the cost of however damaging this rhetoric has been to people’s lives.

Worryingly, the rhetoric goes much deeper as it becomes ever more surgically removed the notion of remuneration. The Conservative Party tagline insists they are “for hardworking people” (apparently). But not “hardworking people who earn a hardworking wage.” Politicians want to “get people into work” but not “get people into work with fair pay” or it seems, even any pay. Instead, further barriers are put up – entry level jobs now ask for work experience and workfare programmes provide a turnstile of free staff to large companies.

Twitter: @andymlockhart Friend took a photo of this at Rochdale Jobcentre Plus

Twitter: @andymlockhart Friend took a photo of this at Rochdale Jobcentre Plus

Somehow, debating the economy and jobs market has ironically become a debate without talk of money, or the exchange of labour for money. It asks that we offer up our labour for the sense of being ‘hardworking,’ as opposed to the sense of a pay packet. A burden is put on the unemployed to take anything they can, but no burden on companies to pay them.

How can this lead to a recovery?

But like the lie that if repeated enough is believed, we all further distance ourselves from the treatment of others by silently agreeing and legitimising the abuse of desperation and workers during ‘hard times’ in order to increase profit. Working for free/low pay/no pay, and seeking punishment for those not in work, sees us sleep walking into modern slavery as we forever work longer, for less and lower our expectations, demands and voices.

We have been made to feel snobbish for asking for better than a minimum wage job, or in some cases a job that pays us at all. We should be asking, why are people working to remain in poverty? Why are people being made to work for free instead of being paid? Why is paying people a wage they can live on seen as a radical concept and not a value that should be placed at the heart, in the very foundations, of an economy in our ‘developed’ world?

Image: Prosebeforehos by Nick Anderson

Image: Prosebeforehos by Nick Anderson

Poverty out-of-work jobseeker benefits are seen as luxuries, as are decent holidays, or time with your family. We are silenced from asking for a life outside our worth to an economy, which for our efforts then immediately turns on us with suspicion, should we fall off it’s troubled, corrupt and risky, state-subsidised, profit-privatised railtrack.

This is why we need to talk about Germany. And other alternatives. Because in an environment obsessed with usurping our values with profit, we need to regain the strength, importance and understanding of the ‘immeasurables’. We are told time and time again, parties have no choice but to make these “tough decisions,” but there is a world of alternatives for us to learn from if we step outside the rigid and well-rehearsed campaign happening here. Of course, everything comes it’s own pluses and minuses and there is always room for improvement. But would the decision to treble tuition fees seem so inevitable if we debated how Scotland has kept it’s education free? Or how Denmark not only offers free higher education but has grants available to all students?

Image: Oxford Essays

Image: Oxford Essays

The governing powers have worked well to instil us with an amnesia and incongruence of civil liberties. As workplaces and large corporations play out their race to the bottom of our working conditions, we are expected to follow complacently, believing the faceless, bigger than us ‘we,’ cannot afford to grant us the means to scrape by for our daily work. The guise of living in the ‘free world’ and ‘democracy’ conjures up a belief that those in power will look after our best interests, and thus our hardships must be for good reason, while simultaneously we are sold free work as a gateway to progress.

We are often compared to countries in a way that insists we need more work and discipline. South Korea comes top in education, so ignore the high rates of student suicide and migration, this must mean we need longer hours for children. Michael Gove wants to make public schools like private schools, with longer hours. Again, surgically bereft of talk of investment despite poverty being the main aggregator of a child’s ability to learn and do well. But we don’t talk about Sweden where there is a 99% literacy rate and free higher education for all students from the EU?

And we are rarely compared to Germany. Yet, it has plenty of good ‘measurables’ – measurables being the things government like to talk about – economy, numbers, workers, profit etc. Let’s mention what Germany has on it’s side in terms of these. Though before I do, I must say that these are examples of some strengths in another country and present potential debate or call for alternatives. They are not all perfect, and Germany still has a lot of room for improvement, but there are clearly things we could learn from.

Measurables

A strong economy which single-handedly save the Euro from a double dip recession

Germany has a strong manufacturing export and this, along with strong economic activity, saved the Eurozone from a double dip recession in 2011. Germany has continued to remain one of the biggest economic forces in the EU since then, and were we to discuss these strengths in the same way the Conservatives discussed South Korean education we would be debating how to create more manufacturing opportunities in our service-heavy country, and also how to increase economic activity.

Most economic activity is created by those with least money, as they spend their money on the essentials they need. However, benefit cuts, wage pressures and rising inflation and living costs has left the worst off even worse off, stagnating what economic activity and growth there could be here.

An abundant banking sector which spreads power and risk…

Germany has three types of banks – savings banks, co-operatives and private banks. All the money is not held by a handful of huge global banks as in the UK. Smaller banks make up a large portion of the sector which spreads the money of the country and allows less room for risk. Indeed, through the recession non-private banks remained strong:

“Two of the pillars—the 423 savings banks and 1,116 co-operative banks—have come through the crisis with barely a scratch so far. Each of these sectors already has a system of joint and several liability, which means that no individual member bank is allowed to go bust. Neither wants to become part of a wider European banking union, in which guarantees extend to weak peripheral banks.

They argue that their business model, working for the public or mutual good rather than for shareholders, is well suited to the mixture of households and small companies (known as the Mittelstand) that they serve.”

The Economist

The smaller banks have seen their problems, but the private sector has been far more misfortunate and risky. The strength and guarantees that smaller banks can provide should surely be a talking point following the global recession and it’s legacy of austerity here.

Image: Metrosafe

Image: Metrosafe

The subject was touched on by the Channel 4 programme “Bank of Dave” where millionaire Dave Fishwick embarks on a mission to create a community bank better than the high street. The programme sees him come up against the Financial Standards Authority who seemed reluctant to grant Dave a licence, seeming to take the line that he should “leave it to the other banks” as it is being dealt with already.

All this despite Dave’s community bank being more reliable and risk averse than any of our huge conglomerates. This demonstrates an unwillingness and a barrier in bureaucracy and government to provide alternatives when the current system is clearly hugely problematic for customers.

Could it be that the government don’t want to offer us alternatives…….

Where Measurables meet Immeasurables

Productivity and Work/Life Balance

Germans work on average around 1413 hours a year – one of the lowest rates in the OECD, and much lower than the average 1776 in other EU countries. This averages out at just under 30 hours a week.

Despite this, Germans are still more productive per head, per hour compared to the UK who work much longer hours (an average of 43 per week).

Germans also have an average of 40 days holiday a year including bank holidays. This is much higher than the European average of 27, and accounts for an extra 2.5 weeks worth of time off.

There are still some problems with the gender pay gap in Germany with women taking home 25% less in many cases. Still, the % of women in German government is 35% compared to the UK’s 22%.

The UK has long been recognised as one of the most overworked countries in Europe, but searching for work/life balance, even with the prospect of healthier productivity, doesn’t seem high on the government’s agenda. Maybe this is why we rarely see discussion of these comparisons or debates on the UK working week, despite us being more prone to work-related illnesses. In fact, politicians and media go as far as to trivialise and ignite suspicion about these illnesses to ensure, once again, we are working at any cost to our bank balance and our health.

Again, it doesn’t seem to fit with the current agenda of government’s attitude towards work. In a country hellbent on workfare programmes and low pay/no pay -talk of the work/life balance can only disrupt things.

Attitudes towards civil liberties

Germany and it’s government maintain respect and fierce protection of their civil liberties. This is largely linked to the Second World War, which has meant the country is careful with the power it provides it’s government. But it should serve as a lesson for the rest of us too, because the protection of their civil liberties is a systematic and logical culture born out of understanding of what can happen when governments hold too much power.

Take for instance the recent revelations about GCHQ and NSA and American surveillance of “allies.” German chancellor, Angela Merkel spoke out about the effects and infringement of American tactics on both her and her public.

“Mass surveillance sends the wrong signal to “billions of people living in undemocratic states,” Merkel claimed.

“Actions in which the ends justify the means, in which everything that is technically possible is done, violate trust, they sow distrust. The end result is not more security but less,” she added.”

PolicyMic

On a BBC report I witnessed, the attitudes towards spying were discussed from the point of view of several different nations. In this reporter’s package, it mentioned that the Germans didn’t like the idea of spying because it had been used to control and manipulate the population during Nazi Germany. However, when the report moved onto the UK’s attitude towards spying, it was shown as a glamorous business and suggested that Brits thought of James Bond when they thought of spying, and thus it’s aspirational, cool and nothing to worry about.

Image:  The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

In some cruel, post ironic twist, that BBC report talked briefly about how one country had learned to resist the infringement of government on human rights through history, and yet in the next breath provided the propaganda to ease through our own surveillance.

Why aren’t we learning from the huge tragedies of Nazi Germany too? Why aren’t we taking lessons from the place where spying and the seizure of civil liberties forewarns us of a dark world?

What money cannot buy…

The focus of our government on work and profit is an attempt to erode the worth of all our other liberties, and to keep us too busy and demoralised to get them back. Whilst at the same time dismantling and hollowing industries of the presence of much else but cold, soul-less, profit decisions. Last year, the respected journal, The Lancet published a report attacking the government for treating our NHS in very much this way:

“Reading headlines last week, such as ‘Struggling A&E units to get £500m bailout’ and ‘NHS managers to get price comparison website’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current coalition government views the NHS as a failing bank or business,”

This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart.”

The journal, which has been publishing on medical matters for almost 200 years, said the coalition’s NHS reforms meant the health secretary “no longer has a duty to provide comprehensive health services”, having handed over responsibility to a “complex system of organisations”.

We can’t provide care in an environment where the only language is money, profit and work. Workers’ rights, healthcare and education are just some of things that stand to suffer (some already are), with this sort of strategy.

Further, this ‘economic plan’ is not working. Threats, punishment and public shaming have still seen work programmes fail for over 90% of people – who have not found work after 12 months of being enrolled. This is neither efficient, cost-effective or dignified.

Do we need a tragedy to remind us how important our freedoms, protections and liberties are? Because it would much easier to learn from another’s history, and their actions and attitudes towards freedoms now. And with a government so enthused to do away with our human rights, now would be the time to take ownership of what is immeasurably important to our lives.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

RFM Our Welfare Reforms Are Compassionate

I’m With Bob

kamsandhu —  March 18, 2014 — 1 Comment

By Thomas Barlow

So I was going to try and do a tongue-in-cheek, satirical remembrance of Bob Crow that lauded his achievements whilst chastising his enemies in a humorous way, but Mark Steele beat me to that – and unfortunately he is just far better than me in every department. So instead let me launch into a straight, good old tub thumping tirade against his detractors, who hypocritically came out to mourn his death this week.

The amount of stick he got for ridiculous things like daring to have a holiday (A holiday?! IN BRAZIL?! How f***ing dare he?!) may well have been a contributory factor to his sudden and unfortunate passing, so let Boris and the other thoughtless reactionaries shut their traps and consider Bob’s true worth for a moment. I am going to use a phrase that is unpopular because of it’s bland Marxist connotations, but it is true to say that he was a true working class militant. Tony Benn’s passing is a tragedy and he was truly principled and fine person, but when it comes to organising and standing alongside the majority of people (what we used to call the working class), Bob delivered results.

It is dangerous and wrong to mythologise one person so I shall try to refrain from doing so.  It can only be hoped that the RMT carry on in the vein of form they have with Bob, and knowing many of the members, I think it is a safe bet that they will continue. But what Bob represented was not just a straight talking, working class, Millwall fan. He represented success.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

When I make arguments for unionisation nowadays I always ask the following questions; ‘Do you like your weekends mate?  Your lunch breaks?  8 hour days? Nearer pay equality for men and women? Holidays?  Not being killed at work?Not seeing your kids working 16 hour shifts for a pittance? Hell, what about the vote for the majority of people, the Welfare state and a good deal of our civil liberties?’

‘Because you can thank the unions for that, and most importantly, all the people within them, who for 150 years were ridiculed, oppressed, beaten and killed for daring to be in one.’

Thanks to the RMT and Bob I could go further. ‘Do you think everyone has to have their pay slashed?  Lose jobs with no notice?  Work zero hour contracts?  Do unpaid internships?  The RMT crews don’t!’

Unbelievably this is one of the things that irritated some people the most about Bob and the RMT.  ‘We all get shafted in the private sector, why should they get better conditions?’

Well firstly, we probably shouldn’t keep supporting privatisation if the only thing guaranteed from it is a good shafting for the majority of people who work in that sector.

More importantly though, whilst people are right to bemoan the shafting they get at their work places, the solution isn’t to hope everyone else gets corn-holed equally roughly. It is like asking to be the whip hand on a plantation, who gets to beat the others before taking your own stripes across the back. It is the mentality of miserable oppression, and shows our innate inability to celebrate improvement for each other.

This is how we lose, and yet Bob showed us how we can win.  We want a living wage.  We can strike.  We want real contracts.  We can strike.  We want civil liberties, working healthcare and social care and genuine prospects for a lost generation. We can strike.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it is not as easy as all that.

There is more than enough wrong with the unions, with their super mergers, their obsequiousness to the Labour party and their moronic and cowardly representation of our struggles. But the Unions are what we make them, any social struggle is.

We cannot expect those above us to do things for us, we have to do it ourselves.

I am sure Bob would not mind me saying that it wasn’t him who won the negotiations and struggles for his members.  It was the members who won them, united, militant and ready to take the flak.  And Bob was there with them, every step of the way.

So if we get together, and we look at all the tactics available to us to cause trouble for the elite, and we are prepared to use them, regardless of the violence and abuse that will be chucked at us, we can have more than holidays and the vote – we could actually win a life worth living.

It’s what Bob would have wanted.

Image: Sabcat

Image: Sabcat

You have the right. Use it if you need.

Benefit tales

Here’s a calm, assertive lady who knows her rights trying to assert them and record a job centre interview.

The video speaks for itself. But if anyone is in this position and wants to know what their rights are , I’ve copied the Freedom of Information Request reply from the Department of  Work and Pensions, stating exactly what a claimant’s rights are in videoing their jobcenter interview. You’ll find it below the video.

FOI3032 Response 04.07.13.pdf

Recordings by claimants during
interviews, telephone calls etc 

General
Claimant publishes recording on the internet
 
General 
Claimants may seek to record a telephone conversation or an interview with 
DWP either openly or covertly using digital recording devices such as 
cameras, microphones and mobile phones.  There are a number of reasons 
why the Department should stop this happening in open plan public 
spaces. Jobcentre Plus has particular guidance on this here. 
A key concern is that…

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