Thursday, 26 June 2014

BBC maintains reverse view of footage

From Big Issue in the North magazine. 
Information accompanying news footage of events at Orgreave coking works during the 1984-85 miners’ strike has been altered on the BBC Learning Zone for schools.
This follows complaints from a former miner and a woman captured on camera at Orgreave being attacked by a mounted police officer wielding a baton at her head.
South Yorkshire Police is currently under investigation for its role at Orgreave after the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in November 2012.
Orgreave is one of the most contentious issues in the year- long dispute, which pitched members of the National Union of Mineworkers against Margaret Thatcher’s government.
In late May 1984, pickets assembled at the coke works in an attempt to prevent the movement of coal into the plant and coke coming out.
The mass picketing that followed was met by a well- organised police effort involving forces from across Britain.
The most serious disturbances occurred on 18 June 1984 when 8,000 miners were met by 4,500 police, many in riot gear. In the clashes that followed 95 miners were arrested.
Press and television coverage almost universally condemned pickets. BBC viewers on the day were shown police responding to missiles being thrown at them by charging the assembled crowd on horseback wielding batons. In fact the battle scene had been reversed and, in 1991, the BBC issued an apology, claiming its action footage had been “inadvertently reversed”.
Charged with riot and unlawful assembly, the 95 arrested faced lengthy prison sentences. However, when the first 15 appeared at Sheffield Crown Court in 1985 their trial collapsed when it became clear the police’s oral and written evidence was unreliable.
Each prosecution had been supported by two police officers making nearly identical statements.
All charges against pickets were later dropped. Subsequently, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) paid out £425,000 out of court settlements. Despite claims by miners that it was they that had been violently attacked by the police no new investigation was undertaken and no officer was charged.
The IPCC is now examining allegations of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
The BBC Learning Zone Class Clips is for school teachers. Clip 7590 is wrongly headed “The miners’ strike: Orgreave colliery” as there was no colliery at Orgreave. The footage is just over three minutes long and shows a series of clashes between police and pickets, with injuries on both sides.
Almost 90 seconds is taken up by an interview with SYP chief constable Peter Wright, who says: “The police action was in response to the pickets’ actions... I have not previously known missiles to have been thrown to the extent they have here.”
Miner Paul Winter attended the Orgreave picket. When he saw the footage on the Learning Zone he said: “Although I don’t wish to force my politics on kids the events at Orgreave need to be based on fact rather than an organisation and a man who’s credibility is at an all time low with anyone with an ounce of common decency.
“The BBC reversed the footage in 1984. They should reverse this one and replace it with something more balanced.”
Lesley Boulton survived serious injury when she went to aid an injured picket near Orgreave on 18 June 1984. Photographer John Harris famously captured the moment when a mounted police officer aimed a baton at her head and missed narrowly.
Boulton said: “I am very disappointed the BBC is using such a one-sided and limited example of what happened at Orgreave. How are children supposed to be helped to think critically and form opinions with only half the story?”
In response to the complaints a BBC spokesperson said it had amended the “clip to make clear the footage is provided to stimulate classroom discussion and is not a definitive account of events”.

The footage has not been altered but the accompanying words have been changed to state that there are “no comments from a member of the mining community. What might a miner have said about the strike and the picket at the colliery? The piece can be used to stimulate work on different points of view in conflict and how they are represented.”

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Thanks to the owner of a beauty salon, Unite Community has a new community advice centre. Natalia Garstka, owner of Prestige in Doncaster, was constantly being asked by her Polish clients about where they could get advice. So when she met translator Tom Scott-Chambers, who for the last six years has admirably befriended and assisted many migrant workers from Poland, she proposed that he move in and work with Unite to provide advice and information on a formal basis.

In early June the advice sessions started and Tom is now looking for volunteers to be trained to help him. 

Tom’s extensive involvement with the Polish community in South Yorkshire was sparked by him witnessing the deplorable living conditions that migrant workers were being forced to endure with up to sixteen people living in a small house with few facilities. 

When he began searching for some premises, from which to start making improvements by providing free benefits help and welfare rights advice, he wrote off to Unite. “I was delighted when they wrote back saying they were fully behind me,” says Tom. The outcome was the new community centre on Nether Hall Road, location for many Polish and European shops in Doncaster. 

In just a few short weeks the response has been very exciting. Many people have been helped and forty Polish people have joined the Unite Community Branch that has been formed in Doncaster. “Once they see we are on their side, people want to give something back and get involved,” said Tom.

Tom has also been unionising workers from Poland who are working at places such as Monaghan Mushrooms near Pontefract and ABP Food Group in Armthorpe. “People are coming in and saying I am working and I need to be in a union. I say complete the application form, get others to do so and get organised. We need all workers to be in a union as otherwise we will allow employers to pay migrant workers less and consequently see wage levels drop everywhere.” 

The Community Centre is open 10am - 3pm every Tuesday and Wednesday. Ring 

07548 096863 for details and to arrange an appointment. Note the centre is open to all nationalities. 

Should charitable status be removed for land grabbers?

 Should an international organisation that stands accused of colonising land be allowed to retain its UK charitable status? Not according to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. It now owns 13% of the total land of Israel. Two years ago, an early day motion signed by 66 MPS criticised the JNF for what it called ‘its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land, concealing of destroyed Palestinian villages beneath parks and forests...consequently there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s UK charitable status.’

Last year a report – Environmental Nakba – based on a visit to the West Bank by Friends of the Earth highlighted many examples of land expropriation by the JNF in the West Bank involving the destruction of trees and the polluting of agricultural land and surface water. Confiscation of land is undertaken using a law from the Ottoman period that permits the state to expropriate land that is not in use – evidence for which is guaranteed by military exclusion, vandalism and intimidation of settlers, many of who have family links dating back hundreds of years. With over one-third of the income of the West Bank coming from agriculture the continued expansion of settlements is crippling the Palestinian economy and impoverishing Palestinians.

In June, the PSC organised a speaking tour by one of the report’s authors, Eurig Scandrett, a sociology lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, and the organisation is stepping up its campaign for peace and justice for Palestinians.

Government - get on the bus out of here!

Reproduced from the current edition of Unite Landworker magazine. 

They have already been hit hard by government spending cuts and now rural bus services face further decimation in 2014.  

It was in October 2010 that the Conservative/Liberal coalition cut local council budgets by 28 per cent. This was followed by an ongoing annual reduction in spending of 7.1 per cent in local government funding until 2014. To save money, local councils slashed budgets with subsidised public transport routes taking a real pounding. 

Conservative Cambridgeshire County Council swiftly ended all of its £2.7 million funding for subsidised buses and even after a local village resident organised a successful Judicial Review this resulted in ‘only’ £1 million of the cuts being restored. 

The coalition was unconcerned about the chaos they were causing. When it was revealed that the Transport Department had a £543 million underspend in 2011-12 the money was handed back to the Treasury. Labour’s Louise Ellman, chair of the all-party Commons Transport Committee said: “This is quite extraordinary. The department got its sums wrong and bus service cuts did not need to happen.” 

As we move towards what is hopefully the final year of this rotten government things seem certain to get a lot worse for rural bus users. 

The campaign for better transport’s Save Our Buses reveals that 46 per cent of local authorities reduced support for buses in 2013. Now some are threatening to remove all financial support in 2014, especially after the recent ‘bingo’ budget significantly offered little for bus users.

North Yorkshire County Council has made £900,000 cuts – equivalent to 15 per cent of the total budget - to supported buses since 2011. There are a further £2 million cuts being made from April onwards. 100 services will be affected and whilst council leader John Weighell is correct when he says they are being imposed on the authority by the government it rather ignores the fact that he is a Tory. It is also a little rich for Carl Les, the council deputy leader, to state: “We are very conscious of the potential that these reductions have for people in very rural areas, in terms of isolation and loneliness.” 

The cuts have finished off a family business that has been running since 1925. Pennine Motor Services – which operates a fleet of 14 orange and black buses around the market town of Skipton – will cease trading in May. Company secretary Maurice Simpson, whose father, Norman, ran the firm for many decades said, “It is a very sad day but unfortunately it is no longer viable. North Yorkshire reimburses 28.4 per cent of free travel whereas Lancashire pays back 56 per cent. That is our problem. It is a disaster for our 19 drivers, seven or eight of whom have worked for us for more than 20 years.” 

In Worcestershire, the Tory-led county council proposals to axe all £3 million of its public transport subsidy produced an unprecedented 8,500 responses. The county council removed £2.5 million of subsidies in 2011 and aimed to finish all subsidies this year. This threatened 88 bus services along 43 different routes, including scores in rural areas. Public pressure has forced the Tories to find £1 million to keep subsidised buses running until September, but the future of these essential services remains uncertain.

In Oxfordshire, the county council is controlled by a minority Conservative Party administration and supported bus budgets have been maintained since 2011. A good standard of provision is now jeopardised by a review, which remains ongoing as we went to press. 

Amongst the threatened services in West Oxfordshire are those in the Witney, Woodstock and Chipping Norton area. So concerned was Unite community member Kate Pearce – who lives 15 miles from Witney in Langford - that she collected documents on 30 routes. When she discovered that 27 were likely to face having their timetables cut, Kate started up her own website – - to get people involved as “rural communities need buses, otherwise people won’t be able to access doctors surgeries or get to the shops. These services provide a lifeline to the communities that they serve.” Kate collected 500 signatures on a petition that she later presented to the county council.

Kate made links with Darran Brown, Unite convenor for over 450 members at the local Stagecoach bus depot. He has seen some of his members work lost to a not for profit community interest company, Go Ride, after Oxfordshire County Council took the 213, 214, 215 and 233 routes out of subsidy to save £188,000. 

Brown naturally wants to defend his members’ interests. But he also fears that if “Stagecoach can’t make money on these routes then how can a small company do so? Go Ride will only be running  16 seater buses, which for the majority of time will not be big enough to accommodate users, who are primarily elderly people. Once the bus is full there will an hour’s wait for the next service. I want a well maintained rural bus service. I don’t believe that will be the case going forward.”

Brown is right to be worried. Before the recent budget, 29 very high profile charities, NGO’s and trade unions, including Unite, combined in calling for urgent government action in tackling bus service cuts. The response was derogatory with Danny Alexander, the treasury chief secretary, penning just 7 sentences in reply. It was a cheap shot but one which demonstrates that the current government cares little for rural communities. It is time they got on their own bus and departed the scene. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Some photos from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Picnic and Festival on 14 June

The picnic and festival organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) on Saturday 14 June at Orgreave attracted around 1,500 people, with a peak attendance early in the afternoon of 1,000. This was a highly respectable turn out and most people seemed to enjoy the event. Here are some photographs of the day itself. All photographs are copyright Mark Harvey of ID 8 photography and are not for reproduction.

Geoff Poulter, sacked miner from Bolsover Colliery and
Stephen Hamilton, Cadeby Main Memorial Group 

Michael Mansfield, film-maker Yvette Vanson and Orgreave veterans including
OTJC activists Kevin Horne, Arthur Critchlow and Lesley Boulton. 

Joe Rollin and John Dunn of Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign 
Gareth Pierce 
Rick Sumner. former miner and Justice for Mineworkers national convenor 
Betty Cook of Women Against Pit Closures 

Fans of FC United showed great support 

Bridget Bell, originator and main organiser of the picnic and festival,
is presented with a bottle of champagne from Barbara Jackson, OTJC secretary.

Art, history and progress

Art, history and progress 

Trade union banners are heroic examples of popular art, giant swaying sails of colour, a tribute to the cause of labour. Starting from the emergent craft trade unions of the early nineteenth century they present a telling visual history of working class struggle and progress. Nowhere does this history burn brighter than at the Durham Miners’ Gala, which is fast re-emerging as the biggest annual trade union event in Britain.

Which is why, following the successful start-up of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) and Unite Community support centre at Redhills, Durham UNITE Community is proud to be, with the backing of the DMA, launching its own banner. The unveiling takes place on 10 July 2014 at the Premier in Durham City of the RedLadder Theatre Company Play: “We’re not going back.” 

Incredible generosity from many Unite branches and members has made the banner possible. The eye catching design, which results from collaborative work between older and younger activists, recognises the new methods of campaigning by groups like UK Uncut, Occupy and the People’s Assembly. 

Davy Hopper, DMA general secretary, said: "This banner will mark the 30th anniversary of our national strike - a strike where Thatcher sought to destroy our communities. Unfortunately for the Tories we are still here and still fighting - this banner will reflect that.”

Ps Anyone wanting to find out more about Trade Union Banners should get hold a copy of BANNER BRIGHT by John Gorman. 

Parcel rules leave customers seething

A change in Post Office rules for sending parcels has left some customers angry.
Under regulations introduced last year, everyone posting a parcel at the Post Office should be asked about the contents. But some people believe this information should be confidential.
Introduced in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority, the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the changes mean Royal Mail cannot accept any package without knowing if it contains prohibited items such as foreign lottery tickets, obscene images, explosives, flammable liquids and ammunition.
Counter staff are required to ask customers about the contents of their parcels. However if they believe that a parcel may contain a prohibited item they must forward it for opening to the Royal Mail returns centre in Belfast. Dangerous or prohibited items are destroyed and no compensation is paid to customers.
Turned away
Some customers are unhappy about the changes. Steve Raphael from Blackburn was turned away from Whalley Banks post office after he refused to tell staff that his parcel contained a children’s toy, one of a number of items he had sold on eBay. He said: “It’s wrong, it’s a disgrace. It’s a principle as I fear next they will be asking my for my papers.”
After 13 years of using his local post office in Barnwood, Gloucestershire pensioner Gordon Meek switched to using another one after he was asked about a parcel that included cosmetics. He said: “I believe this information is confidential and they have no right to ask me what is in there.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “Questions are asked of all customers posting parcels. Customers have the right to complain and can do so through customer service channels.”

As reproduced from Big Issue in the North magazine of 9-15th June. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Police watchdog to use new powers and money to 'build trust'

Reproduced from the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 

The regional head of a police watchdog believes new powers and extra funding to investigate complaints will strengthen police accountability and help improve relations between black and ethnic minority communities and the police.
As the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) commissioner for Yorkshire and the North East, Cindy Butts scrutinises seven police forces. Her post builds on a lifetime of work aimed at improving relations between the police and the public.
As a pupil at Hammersmith Comprehensive in West London, Butts, with the aim of reducing constant tensions, set up a forum to encourage discussion between pupils and police. Later she served for 12 years as an independent member of the Metropolitan Police Authority until it was disbanded in 2012. Today she is charged with investigating the most serious allegations against police officers and building public confidence in forces’ complaints procedures.
When the IPCC was set up in April 2004, replacing the widely discredited Police Complaints Authority, Inquest, which investigates deaths in custody, was left disappointed by the new bodies’ failure to recruit from ethnic communities and outside the police profession. Today, three of the six IPCC commissioners for England and Wales are black.
No convictions
Since 2004, over 400 deaths have occurred in police custody but no police officer has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter. When Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station in July 2005 the subsequent IPCC report was heavily criticised by the family of the dead man for being “weak”.In February 2008, more than 100 specialist lawyers quit the IPCC’s advisory board after citing incompetence and rudeness.
Last year, Theresa May, the home secretary, gave the IPCC new powers to compel police officers to attend interviews and it will soon have powers to investigate private contractors working on behalf of the police
Earlier this year, May said more than a quarter of a million annual stop and searches could be illegal and committed to revising the code of practice under which they are conducted. Around a million searches each year are conducted, with only 10 per cent leading to an arrest.
Black people are around six times more likely to be stopped than white people. But by stopping short of introducing legislation, May was accused by Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, of being “weak.”
There are also concerns in black communities about the manner in which Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act is employed by officers to stop passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals. At a recent engagement event in Leeds attended by representatives from over 50 black and ethnic minority regional organisations, Butts heard from a middle-aged Asian man in the audience who claimed that despite no previous convictions he has been stopped ten times under Schedule 7. The IPCC argues that all police forces are required to provide it with reports on their use of Schedule 7, but the Metropolitan Police is refusing to do so and the issue is set to be resolved in court.
Also present at the event in Leeds was a local young black single mother who recounted a horrific tale of police brutality when she was arrested and sprayed with CS gas, taken to the police station and released without charge or explanation as to why she had been detained.
Institutional racism
Just West Yorkshire, the racial justice and human rights organisation that organised the event, is now helping to make a complaint.
Speaking alongside Butts, Charles Critchlow, a black police officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 25 years, recounted how institutional racism can permeate the police.
Although police forces themselves will still deal with the majority of complaints against the police, the IPCC is now in a position to take on many more cases after May granted the body an extra £18 million annually. This will see investigative staff more than double from 120 to around 300 nationally.
Butts, who was praised by Critchlow for seeking to promote openness, transparency and accountability, believes the legislative changes announced by May and the additional funds for the IPCC will help make her job more effective.
Private contractors
“Now that officers are required to attend any IPCC interview we are challenged with ensuring they do not remain silent when we are conducting our investigations,” she said.
“Due to their increasing role it is also vital that we have powers to scrutinise private contractors. I also welcome the new code of practice that is being introduced around stop and search.”
Butts rejected audience members’ demands that her organisation should not employ ex-police officers and argued that they are often among the IPCC staff members keenest to see complaints properly investigated. Butts also appealed for audience members to consider applying for any new posts at the IPCC to ensure it reflects the ethnically diverse area she oversees.
She supported May’s call for community groups to get involved in helping review training for police officers.
Additional funds means the IPCC can conduct more investigations. Butts wants these to also be “better quality” and some newly appointed staff will also be detailed to support families when they have a complaint or there has been a death in custody.
One of her first actions when she began work at the IPCC over a year ago was to ask for West Yorkshire Police to be investigated alongside Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands Police about how they handle complaints about racism and discrimination. This report is due out shortly
Scrutinise performance
Butts describes the relationship between the IPCC and police as “built on an inherent tension, which is healthy for both organisations. If it was too cosy then neither is doing their job.
I am here to scrutinise their performance and search for the truth in order that communities can expect their complaints to be justly dealt with in order to build trust between the police and those they are employed to serve.”
The IPCC commissioner however faces a difficult task. Audience members in Leeds were asked if they had confidence in policing. Although only one voted yes, this was larger than the number who said they were confident in the police complaints process– zero.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

In memory of John Baird and Andrew Hardie, hung by an uncaring Government in 1820

Part of the Rebel Road project on behalf of Unite education. 

There is a plaque, mounted by the Labour Party, on the Stirling Tolbooth and Cross which commemorates Andrew Hardie and John Baird. The pair were executed in Stirling on 8 September 1820 for playing a leading role in a radical uprising aimed at reforming an uncaring government. 

Following the end of the long Napoleonic Wars the subsequent economic downturn brought increasing dissent, with skilled Scottish weavers at the forefront of demands for major change.  In 1812 the weavers had defied the law by striking for nine weeks after employers had refused to pay a wage increase agreed upon by magistrates. 

A (28 man) Committee of Organisation for Forming a Provisional Government placed placards around Glasgow on Saturday 1 April 1820 calling for a national strike the following Monday. In the weeks leading up to the call, the committee had arranged for military training for its supporters. With his military experience, John Baird, was given responsibility for the training programme. Meantime, the government pressed ahead with constructing a network of spies and agent provocateurs. 

When as many as 60,000 workers took up the call for action on April 3 some then, unsuccessfully, sought to seize weapons. James Wilson of Strathaven was identified as one of the ringleaders of men who attacked the militia as they escorted prisoners to Greenock jail. After being hung, Wilson was decapitulated as the authorities, terrified by revolutionary turmoil in Ireland and France, sought to reassert their control by brutal methods. 

En route with a small detachment of men to the Carron Company Ironworks in Falkirk to remove weapons manufactured there, Baird and Hardie were ordered to wait at Bonnymuir whilst others moved forward to grab the weapons. A detachment of Hussars and Yeomanry troopers were later ordered to attack the rebels at Bonnymuir, four of whom were wounded, whilst nineteen were captured and imprisoned in Stirling Castle. 

In total 88 men were charged with treason in Scotland and at Glasgow and Stirling a special Court was established to prosecute them. Wilson was executed on 30 August and nine days later Hardie and Baird, who before they died defied the Sheriff of Stirling by refusing not to make political speeches from the gallows, suffered the same fate. 

Baird said: “We cry to heaven for vengeance.”

Hardie said: “Our blood is shed…..for no other sin but seeking the legitimate rights of our ill used and down trodden beloved Countrymen.” 

Afterwards the Sheriff warned the 2,000 crowd, “go quietly home and read your Bibles, and remember the fate of Hardie and Baird.” 

In due course another 19 rebels, a number of whom had participated after being urged to do so by agent provocateurs, were transported to the penal colonies in New South Wales or Tasmania. Following a campaign in Scotland led by journalist Peter MacKenzie, they were later all granted an absolute pardon in 1835.

Many thanks to Unite member Michael Connarty, Labour MP for Linlithgow and Falkirk East, for sending in the photograph of the Stirling plaque. 

Andrew Hardie wrote his account of the uprising in an 8-page booklet that was smuggled 
out of prison and published. 

The radical revolt: a description of the Glasgow Rising in 1820; the march and battle of 
Bonnymuir, Andrew Hardie, 1793-1820.

In 1832 Peter MacKenzie had a book published: An exposure of the spy system 
pursued in Glasgow during the years 16-16-17-18-19 and 20: with copies of the original 
letters…..of Andrew Hardie, who was executed for high treason at Stirling, in September 

1820…./edited …by a Ten-pounder  

Remembering the past and looking to the future - The Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge

Formerly known as the Socialist Club, the Red and Green Club is one of the oldest labour movement clubs having opened in 1892. Having recently come close to collapse, the club is becoming popular with local trade unionists, socialists, environmentalists and community activists as well as providing a venue for musicians, bands, poets and writers.

A co-operative has been formed to buy the building, which has a remarkable history. Its opening ceremony was conducted by a leader of the 1889 dockers’ strike, Tom Mann, who spoke to a meeting of 300 people.

From the beginning the club was based on bringing together trade unionists and socialists. The club was later affiliated to the Independent Labour Party and Kier Hardie spoke at a meeting there in 1893. In 1906 Emmeline Pankhurst spoke on women’s suffrage and two years later the club formed the Milnsbridge Socialist Brass Band.

Financial support was provided for disputes such as the miners in 1921 and the engineers the following year. In 1927 the US was condemned for the execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. In the 1930s collections were made for the Spanish Republic. After he became Prime Minister, Harold Wilson visited the club on several occasions during the 60s and 70s.

Changing habits however meant that this remarkable history seemed certain to be lost and the club was set to close in 2013. A small group met and agreed to create a new venture – The Red and Green Club, which was publicly launched on August Bank Holiday Monday that year. They appealed to other people to get involved in their co-operative venture and the result has been a remarkable transformation. Financial support and major investment from rail union the TSSA has allowed for the commissioning of architects and building engineers to draw up refurbishment plans.

A business plan has been developed, including a canalside café and bar as the club backs on to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Nearby Slaithwaite and Marsden have become popular destinations and there is no reason why Milnsbridge cannot join them.

Many individuals who have become members at a cost of £10 a year have also made donations, including one person who made out a £2,000 cheque. A committee has been elected and there are a growing number of political and social events. There has been a steady increase in attendances. On May Bank Holiday Monday 2014, the club hosted an all-day musical event. There was also a film showing, a practice run for what will become a monthly event at the club. The healthy attendance included a number of people who were making their first visit to the club and who subsequently joined.

 Included amongst the members are a number of Unite members including local GP Hester Dunlop of Colne Valley Labour Party. The club is being used as the regular meeting point for the area’s ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ campaign in which Hester is active.

Hester, who is a member of the club’s steering group, said: “We are testing out the notion to see if there is an audience for people to come to a club like this. It is a big undertaking but we have got a number of people with skills in engineering, electronics, architecture, business, arts and entertainment. Considering we started with just 3 people then I am confident about the future success of the club. I would like to invite other members of Unite to get involved.”

The club’s chairperson is former local Labour councillor and transport campaigner, Paul Salveson, who said: “It is about finding a niche not just for ‘the left’ but the wider community and organisations who are interested in something a bit different. Our model is the Hebden Trades Club, which has been successful in attracting audiences for a variety of events for many years now. The support of trade unionists and the trade union movement will be essential for our long-term future and anyone interested in getting involved should get in touch.”

Red and Green Club, 42 Bankwell Road, Milnsbridge HD3 4LU
For more details contact Paul Salveson on 07795 008691

The end of the Combination Acts 190 years ago today.....

190 years ago today a bill to abolish the 1799/1800 Combination Acts was passed by the House of Commons.

The end of the 18th century had seen employers increasing their capital, with greater investment in plant and machinery. For the first time, by combining workers had a weapon that could hurt the superior forces of class and privilege. Combination was already illegal but the new laws offered a faster application of the law by providing for a trial before a Justice of the Peace (Magistrate) rather than wait for an assize. Although the Acts forbade combinations amongst employees and employers it was never used against the latter. When the employers began cutting wages and a few brave workers walked out they found themselves up before the Magistrates and imprisoned. Tin plate workers in the Wolverhampton ‘great strike’ of 1819 were arrested, tried, found guilty and transported to Tasmania. This did not prevent other workers taking action, often successfully after their masters refused to use the law.

In response to the attacks on their rights to collectively organise, workers continuously presented petitions to Parliament, but with no workers’ representatives the support from MPs was extremely limited. There were even moves by William Wilberforce to make the combination laws more drastic.

In the early 1820s, two MPs, Francis Place and Joseph Hume were successful in getting a Select Committee of Inquiry to examine the workings of the Combination Acts. This recommended repeal, which was carried out between 25 May and 5 June 1824.

It did not take the employers long to hit back. Workers organised ‘closed shops’ and demands for wage increases were backed up with strikes. A frightened ruling class demanded restoration of the combination laws. The result was a strengthening of the Conspiracy Laws in 1825, again limiting combinations and leaving trade union funds unprotected with their members liable to be sued for breach of contract. Picketing was made illegal and the employers again moved to prevent collective bargaining.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

All-inclusive hols leave workers out

From the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 

They give British customers cheap, affordable holidays at a fixed budget but all-inclusive holidays are increasingly offering no benefit to the host nations. So says Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, who recently hosted a Parliamentary launch of a new report into the impact of all-inclusive hotels on working conditions and labour rights in Kenya, Tenerife and Barbados.
In 2013, Tourism Concern, supported by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), started researching the impact of all- inclusives on hotel workers’ pay, working conditions and labour rights.
All-inclusive holidays, in which food, drink and entertainment are included in the price, have soared in popularity as holidaymakers with less money to spend seek to keep their spending levels down. More than a third of package holidays are now all- inclusive and bookings rose 14 per cent last year.
Local economy
But there has been heavy criticism that local economies are failing to benefit from all- inclusives because the operator in the host country retains profits and visitors spend little outside the hotel complex where they are staying. A World Bank investigation found that in Kenya, tourist spending finding its way into the local economy was just 22.8 per cent. This figure includes Mombasa, where most holidays are all-inclusive and where the local population survives on less than 60 pence a day.
The Tourism Concern report found that workers in all-inclusive hotels faced less favourable working conditions compared with their colleagues in other hotels. Workers were on shorter contracts, worked longer hours, were paid less, had fewer training opportunities and also received fewer tips.
Stress levels were also greater due to more prolonged contact with guests. Female employees were further handicapped due to a lack of equal opportunities, with fewer chances of being promoted. There were also reports of bullying of staff. Encouragingly, there was little evidence of child labour.
Workers in all-inclusive hotels reported being much less satisfied than other hotel workers. A worker in Kenya told researchers: “Most of the time you work until you feel as if you are going to collapse.”
European operators
Unions in each country undertook the collection of the data for the report. Many of the hotel workers, especially in Kenya, are in a union and there has been some progress in establishing collective bargaining agreements with tourist companies. These include minimum terms and conditions of service, and dispute settlement procedures.
Many workers in Kenya and Tenerife however felt that the agreements were not being fully implemented.
The authors of the Tourism Concern report said: “European tour operators are accountable for the actions and policies of their supply chain – including economic, social and environmental standards. Labour standards must be addressed as part of the wider social responsibility agenda.’
Reed, a shadow Home Office minister, said he hosted the Commons meeting that launched the report “because increasingly, all-inclusive tourist resorts offer no benefit at all to the area where they are located”.
Host culture
He added: “Sustainable managed tourism allows visitors to experience the culture of their hosts. Local communities benefit from the money tourists spend on food, entertainment and shopping. This is not happening with all-inclusive resorts.
“Now we find workers at these resorts endure worse working conditions than elsewhere. These are important issues that need addressing.”
Accor, the world’s leading hotel manager with nearly 3,500 hotels in 92 countries, did not respond to requests for comment.

Support the Working Class Movement Library, Salford

Taken from Rebel Road, a record of trade union and labour movement heroes on the Unite education webpages. 

Working Class Movement Library, Salford.
Tony Benn called the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) in Salford “One of the greatest educational institutions in Britain.” It is internationally recognised as one of Britain’s most important collections of working class history as embodied in the trade union movement, the co-operative movement and the political parties and campaigns of the left.
The library, which is wheelchair accessible, is built upon the personal collection of Ruth and Edmund Frow and its forty rooms hold tens of thousands of books and pamphlets, as well as archives, posters, banners, newspapers, photographs and artefacts. This extensive collection means that over 200 years of organising and campaigning by ordinary men and women for social and political progress is maintained.
The WCML has library exhibition space which hosts an array of information displays, open to the public. Anyone who wants to study in the library should ring in advance in order that staff can assist in ensuring all relevant materials are available from its extensive catalogue. The WCML also hosts regular talks, lectures and guided tours. A range of pamphlets is published each year and there is a library e-newsletter.
The library receives a very small sum of public money each year and as an independent charity it largely relies on donations from individuals and trade unions with occasional grants from trusts such as the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund.
Working Class Movement Library, Jubilee House, 51 The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX
0161 736 3601

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Poor school report as coalition will have rebuilt just one North East school by 2015 election

From the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 
Ian Ramsey School in Stockton on Tees will be the only North East school to have been rebuilt under the current government when the general election takes place next year. This has prompted criticism that the government’s school-building programme is no more efficient than the one it replaced and is a “poor show”.
In May 2010, the new coalition government moved quickly to scrap Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme. The new education secretary Michael Gove told the Commons that Labour’s programme had been hit by “massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy”.
Some 715 proposed BSF projects were abandoned. They included a number of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council schools, including Nunthorpe, Redcar Academy, Eston Park, special schools Kilton Thorpe and Kirkleatham, and Laurence Jackson Secondary School in Guisborough. Projects stopped in Durham included a new school to replace Spennymoor and Tudhoe Secondary. Projects stopped in North Tyneside included Seaton Burn College and Longbenton Community College. Fourteen rebuilds in Sunderland were halted.
‘Poor show’
Two years after scrapping BSF, Gove launched the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP), which, like its predecessor, is mainly funded through Private Finance Initiative schemes. Under PSBP 261 schools were listed in the proposed first round of building. Ian Ramsey School was given the go-ahead last year to build a new school and work is due to be completed later this year.
The government has just announced that Miller Construction has been awarded the first batch of schemes under the PSBP in the North East.
Six secondary schools and six primary schools will be rebuilt at a total cost of £120 million. Two – Mandale Main Primary and Laurence Jackson Secondary – are from Redcar and Cleveland Borough. Others include Hylton Castle Primary in Sunderland, Longbenton Community College and Roman Road Primary in Gateshead.
Construction of new buildings is due to start from December 2014, with planned completions by August 2016. None will be completed by May 2015, the date of the general election. Once built, Miller will provide maintenance and lifecycle services over a 25-year period.
One local headteacher, who did not wish to be named and whose school is among the 12 being rebuilt, said: “I am more relieved than anything as we started this process under the last government.
“When the coalition scrapped the BSF programme and replaced it with PSBP it was on the grounds they would be more efficient and effective. I do not think they can claim that now and many other heads feel the same. To have rebuilt just one North East school during their term of office is a poor show.”
‘On course’
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are on course to rebuild 34 schools across the North East by the end of 2017 under our PSBF. Compared to the previous government’s programmes we have cut costs by up to 40 per cent and reduced the time it takes to get on site from three years to one.”
But the local headteacher responded: “I feel this is being economical with the truth as we have already undertaken two years planning work under PSBP.

“Also building projects do often have a record of costing more by the time they are completed, whilst some of the proposed rebuilds are cheaper because the quality and space for teaching is not going to be as good.”

Monday, 2 June 2014

Orgreave mass picnic and festival on June 14 - press release

Secretary Barbara Jackson 0114 2509510 
———————————————————————————————————— Press release - immediate

ORGREAVE mass picnic and festival
Saturday 14 June
11.00am – 7.00pm
Admission free
Catcliffe Recreation Ground, Poplar Way, Catcliffe S60 5TZ

A celebration of struggle and resistance on the 30th ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREAT MINERS’ STRIKE

Pleasure will replace pain. Truth will replace terror. Hope will replace horror. But the fight against injustice will go on.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) is delighted to announce that we are holding an all-day picnic and festival on 14 June 2014 at Orgreave; location of state-backed police terror thirty years ago during the year-long miners’ strike.

Those who are attending will include many former miners who were present on the 18th of June 1984 when 95 strikers were arrested after thousands of police officers – many in riot gear with others on horseback – brutally assaulted miners fighting to protect jobs and ensure a future for mining communities.

Unreliable oral and written evidence by the police subsequently meant all charges – which included, in numerous cases, riot, carrying the possibility of life sentences – were dropped.

Compensation was even paid to 39 pickets in out of court settlements but no police officers were disciplined or charged for the offences they committed which included assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office.

Growing concern that South Yorkshire Police (SYP) Force and its officers, many now retired, have still to account for their actions at Orgreave led to the SYP referring itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in November 2012.

Following a scoping exercise the IPCC has promised to announce in the near future whether they will move forward to conduct a full investigation. Whatever decision is taken by the IPCC will be noted with interest by the OTJC. Either will not deflect us from continuing our growing campaign for a full public inquiry which we are confident will lead to a paper trail showing how the actions of the police at Orgreave were influenced by political pressure from within the highest ranks of the Government of the day.

The picnic and festival, organised in association with the Justice for Mineworkers' Campaign, has only been made possible because of significant financial support from the labour and trade union movement at local and national level. The day will help re-affirm the OTJC fight for justice and there will be a range of speakers at the beginning including Mike Mansfield QC, who represented a number of those arrested at Orgreave. Later; Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign will be joined on stage by Arthur Critchlow; a victim of police brutality thirty years ago who successfully fought off riot charges. In honour of his support, there will be a tribute to Bob Crow, the dearly departed RMT leader.

There is also going to be a chance to party. A range of artists, whose commitment is a constant source of inspiration and at the heart of all our hopes and dreams, have agreed to appear on two stages. They include Three Faction, Omar Puente & Friends, Western Promise and The Hurriers.

Compere will be Attila the Stockbroker.

Other attractions include a children’s play area, bouncy castle and art workshops, exhibitions that include a photographic display of NUM photographer Martin Jenkinson’s work in 1984-85, stalls, refreshments and a beer tent.

For more details contact Barbara Jackson on 0114 2509510

Additional comments from speakers. 

“I am delighted to be speaking at the event on 14 June 2014, The heroic miners and their leaders in 1984 were amongst the first to expose the democratic bankruptcy of our Parliamentary system. Corruption, vested interest and undercover surveillance have all now been revealed as the tools of the political trade.”

Michael Mansfield

Striking miners from 84/85, Orgreave Veterans, Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC), 84/85 Strike Babies and miners' supporters from the wider community will join together to hold a Mass Picnic which will celebrate the continuing solidarity of those who fought long and hard to resist the most vicious government attacks on their union and their class. Marking the 30th Anniversary of the Great Miners' Strike, the picnic and festival will be a day to renew our determination to carry on the fight for justice.

Bridget Bell, OTJC and APC

"I am going to the picnic to see lots of comrades who are attending. It is important to mark a massive event that took place in the miners' strike, which shouldn't be forgotten in union history.”

Arthur Critchlow, Orgreave veteran