Saturday, 28 August 2010

Saved!

THE mothballed Corus steel plant on Teesside is to be sold to Thai firm SSI.
The plant was partially closed when an international consortium suddenly walked away from a long-term contract to buy its products and Corus refused to consider developing the plant.
More than 1,000 workers at the Teesside Cast Products site lost their jobs and there were fears that the plant would close altogether, leading to thousands more job losses across the region.
Behind-the-scenes moves began this summer to sell the plant to SSI, with union leaders and local politicians visiting Thailand to meet company executives.




The announcement today that the factory was being sold to SSI raised hopes that many of the jobs will be saved, giving a huge boost to the North-East region, which is heavily reliant on the steel industry for employment.
Union officials warmly welcomed today's great news.
Unite national officer Terry Pye said: "Last year this site was pronounced dead, but thanks to the intervention and determination of the workforce and their unions to find a buyer, this steel plant has been brought back to life.

"The deal secures jobs for the future and generates wealth and opportunity for the local community. This is fantastic news."

From a personal perspective I was present at the Save Our Steel March at Redcar in July 2009 and witnessed just how much the industry means to the town.
At the time I felt that the campaign should have developed into a national issue for the whole of the Steel Industry to organise around but it wasn't to be.
However the involvement of the unions and the community in persuading Corus to listen to the prospective buyer is a testament to what can be achieved by unions and a united community joining together to save jobs and securing a future for their area.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Class War it is Then

Not that we expected anything different but the recent press release from The Institute for Financial Studies clearly states Osborne's Budget is regressive and will hit the poorest in our society the hardest.
The poorest 10% will be out of pocket by up to £422 per household, with the second richest 10% £339 worse off.
Unite assistant general secretary for equalities Diana Holland said: "The IFS has exposed  that Osborne's callous budget not only hits the poorest hardest but it also means that women, minorities and the disabled will be hit hardest too.
"The Con-Dems' vision of a big society is in fact an increasingly unequal society where the poor, women, minorities and the disabled suffer the most."

So those at the bottom of the pile will bear the burden of a financial crisis caused by those at the top.
But if you don't have a pile you can't have a top or a bottom.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Labour NEC Election

The LRC is supporting our vice chair Susan Press and National Committee member Christine Shawcroft for election to the Labour Party NEC this year. Party members will receive ballot papers next month.
Both candidates remain committed to being accountable and producing reports of all meetings ensuring that party members are kept informed of business.
You can read their election statements here and here, please download their statements and distribute to members in time for voting.
Susan has her own blog which usually contains material of political activism sprinkled with some articles on her personal life.
To ensure members' voices are heard on the NEC vote Susan Press and Christine Shawcroft.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Legal Action Over Visteon Pensions

Unite, Britain's biggest union, has warned Ford Motor company of legal action over the pension rights of staff who transferred to Visteon UK and subsequently lost their jobs and pensions after Visteon UK went into administration last year.

Workers' employment was transferred from Ford to Visteon UK in May 2000. Employees had to decide whether to leave their accrued pension benefits in the Ford pension scheme, or to transfer them to the Visteon pension scheme. Unite believes the information that Ford provided to these workers in order to assist them in deciding whether or not to transfer their accrued pensions benefits was misleading.
The belief was that if they transferred their benefits to the Visteon UK Pension Scheme their pensions would be secure.
However in 2009, 610 workers lost their jobs and some of their pension when Visteon UK went into administration.

They will now get only Pension Protection Fund level benefits for any accrued Ford pension rights that they transferred and only PPF level benefits for their accrued VUKPP pension rights.
The Visteon Pension Action Group demonstrated at the  Unite Policy Conference in Manchester.
Tony Woodley Unite Joint General Secretary addressed the crowd.
“The support of this union is 100 percent behind you.We’re working on a legal angle we can use against Ford.”

But Rob Williams Convenor at the former Visteon plant in Swansea would like to see the campaign stepped up.
"We want the union to immediately put a writ to Ford and make them pay up,”
The workers are faced with losing up to half of their pension benefits.
Mike Gard of the Visteon Pension Action Group said: "We had hoped that it wouldn't come to this, that Ford would recognise the hard and diligent work that its staff put in.

"We now have men and women considering giving up the enjoyments of retirement, such as holidays, which they worked so hard for, considering selling their homes and buying smaller houses and even returning to work to make ends meet."

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Finally Some Good News

Recent announcements from Corus indicate a brighter future for the UK Steel Industry following what can only be described as a very dark period of struggle.
The industry appeared to be on the brink of collapse with orders diminisihing during the recession and workers suffering cuts in overtime and shift payments along with an aborted attempt to agree a wage cut by management and unions.
The company has been in profit for the last 3 quarters and new jobs are being created.
In Lanarkshire there is to be £8m worth of investment in a new 3500 tonne press which will help create 60 new jobs.This  investment will double the capacity to produce heavy levelled plate which is used in  foundations for offshore wind turbines, power plant construction and heavy machinery.
At Port Talbot Blast Furnace No.4 is to be rebuilt at a cost of £185m this work is due to begin in 2012.
It will increase capacity at the plant by 400,000 tonnes.
More significantly there are plans to build a new manufacturing plant at Redcar which will create over 200 jobs. This news will be a welcome relief for the beleaguered area of Teesside which suffered the mothballing of its Steel Plant earlier this year. The plant will produce goods for the green energy market.
Coupled with this is the news that talks are progressing over the sale of Teesside Cast Products which may result in securing a future for Steelmaking in the North-East.

Unite's national officer, Terry Pye, said: "The new manufacturing plant will create hundreds of jobs which will support Britain's future energy requirements, this is great news for Teesside.

"Discussions on the sale of Corus's Teesside Cast Products plant is continuing, and we are hoping there will be a successful sale soon.
"For years workers at Corus have faced cut backs. The successful sale of TCP together with the new manufacturing facility would mean a brighter future for Teesside. Unite is urging Corus to complete the sale and revive steelmaking in Teesside."

The main problem with all of this is the fact that the ConDem Coalition look set upon cutting back on infrastructure investment which may well result in the demand for Steel reducing and once again putting jobs at risk.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Jimmy Reid 1932-2010

“Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies."

Above is a section of the speech made by Jimmy Reid after winning the position of Rector of Glasgow University.
The election of Ted Heath's Conservatives in 1970 had brought a party into power determined to remove state subsidies from "lame duck" industries. This involved the Upper Clyde Shipyards which would have seen 6,000 jobs disappear.
Reid and his colleagues Jimmr Airlie and Sammy Barr decided that the best way to show the viability of keeping the yards open was by staging a 'work-in' rather than by going on strike with the workers operating the shipyard until the government changed policy.
Whilst addressing the workers Reid stipulated the discipline that would be required:

We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.

The campaign was successful and to this day 2 of the 3 Clyde Shipyards remain open

At the time Reid was a Communist he would later join Kinnock in his re-imaging of the Labour Party, from there he joined the SNP and during the Miners Strike he heavily criticised Scargill on his conduct of the strike. Reid should be criticised for the mistakes he made but I prefer to remember him as the inspiring Union leader who saved jobs and gave a future to the community of Clydeside.

Friday, 13 August 2010

On Fishing


At a recent Scunthorpe Branch Socialist Appeal meeting, yes all three of us, we were discussing how we might begin to oppose the public spending cuts and turn Scunthorpe into a Marxist heaven when it suddenly dawned upon us that we might need a little help. Thoughts turned to the possibility of a broad left alliance with the local SWP Branch, yes both members, so we decided it might be a good idea to take in a bit of refreshment at the pub down the road and have a think.
So off we Trotskied down to the Priory where we were entertained by numerous renditions of Journey's Don't Stop Believing which must be on a constant  loop on the jukebox. Surely nobody bought this crap it could only have been part of a cleverly disguised Malthusian plot to persuade us all to commit suicide.
I'd like to send them on a journey and it wouldn't be up and down the boulevard!
Anyway whilst trying to divert my attention away from this bothersome noise I was drawn towards a conversation between a group of twentysomethings sitting at an adjacent table. They were discussing the possibility of arranging a fishing expedition and my thoughts drifted backwards in time to my formative years when a group of us would rise early on dark depressing Saturday mornings during winter.
Off we would cycle the six miles to a dreary canal and sit opposite a disused power station hoping that the big local lad would not come and beat us up for being in his spot or that the farmer would not evict us for daring to step upon his empty field.
I would sit there all day watching a painted stick bobble up and down in the water, quickly reel it in if a barge came sailing by and watching my finger ends slowly turn blue.
You've probably guessed that I'm not an angler it's not that I don't like fish I do, in fact I love it especially when it's surrounded by mountains of chips enticingly arranged on a plate with two slices of buttered bread by my side. Even better when I sit with my partner eating this working class luxury whilst watching the cast of Eastenders playing happy families on a Friday night.
The fact is I just don't see the point of skewering a live maggot with a hook, immersing it into freezing cold water in the hope that I might persuade an adult Perch to swallow my bait. Even if I was successful with my deftly concealed trap what would I do with it?
Imprison it in a two foot wide net for a few hours before allowing it to swim free?
OK I know because I have been told many times that angling is the most popular pastime in Britain and millions partake in this futile activity, but then again millions vote Tory and it doesn't make it right.
My fishing career ended one cold Saturday afternoon in February 1975. Upon hearing that Scunthorpe United had lost again I began to pack my gear away and get ready for the ride home after denying a couple of fine aquatic creatures their freedom for a few hours before setting them loose to find a meal that didn't end up with them being wrenched from their natural environment, when I realised that my time might be better spent having an exploratory fumble on the settee of name ommitted's front room. In fact this activity might even help rid me of acne.
(Just in case you're reading this you know what I'm talking about and I wish you well but I still think Bay City Rollers' first album is far superior to the second but not a patch on Physical Graffiti.)

So there you have it my thoughts on fishing a pointless, mind numbing activity that can only lead to an introverted personality with a  lack of interpersonal skills.

PS If any anglers get worried about how they can humanely kill what they catch try stabbing your prey to death with your hook apparently that implement doesn't cause pain to fish! 

PPS If my one follower disagrees with my opinion of angling he will be deleted.
Is that slightly Stalinist?

Monday, 9 August 2010

This Abuse has to Cease

Whilst trawling the Internet I cam across this article in the Guardian. It details the conditions Domestic Workers are subjected to in the UK.
How these workers have been persuaded to enter the UK with promises of wages they will never see and once they are here they have their passports confiscated and are treated as slaves having to work long hours without holidays.
I was aware that Domestic Workers were exempt from the Health & Safety Act 1974 but did not know that they were not covered by the minimum wage due to the fact that they are allowed to eat with the family they are working for.
On looking further into this I noticed that Unite since 2008 have been  involved  in a campaign to end this abuse. Surely it is time for this campaign to receive more publicity in order to bring the issue to the attention of the public and force the Government into granting full employment rights to these workers and end the exemption from  Health & Safety legislation.
After all these workers make a valuable contribution to the families they work for, allowing them the freedom to go out to work themselves and not worry about Childcare issues.
You can also read the experiences of a domestic worker here and get a first hand account of the conditions they have to suffer.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Two million!

Two million pounds for slashing jobs and closing a plant. That is what Corus have allegedly been paying Kirby Adams according to an article in The Guardian.
This is in stark contrast to what they are trying to get away with when it comes to the people who produce steel.
During the recession the workforce made significant contributions towards the company saving over £1bn and did not submit a pay claim last year.
The final pay offer for 2010/11 was made yesterday.
  • 3.2% rise
  • £200 one off payment for savings contributions
  • Reviews of Family Friendly Policies and Working Time
So a pay rise that only just matches the current rate of inflation if you use CPI. This will mean that I can carry on buying the same size loaf of bread this year. Oh how lucky am I?
A measly £200 per employee for helping them save an absolute fortune which would probably amount to about £3m so one director is paid two thirds of the reward the whole workforce is set to receive.
As far as the reviews of Working Time and Family Friendly Policies will contain you can bet that the intention will be to attack the workforce.
Community Union have accepted the offer without consulting members as usual. Unite and GMB will consult via a ballot.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Oh Please Get Me Out of Here!

Back at work at our on site Trade Union Resource for Training, Learning and Education (TURTLE Centre) following week off, we were delivering an Excel course for the company.
After a couple of hours the delegates broke for drinks and the spectre of a manager appeared at my door.
"Why is this called a Trade Union Learning Centre?"
"Because it is a Trade Union Learning Centre"
Question to manager
"Why is this industry in decline?"
"I don't know"
"One reason might be that we employ managers who are oblivious to what is staring them in the face"
Oh well back to mind numbing reality.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Cameron Meets Corus Owner

DAVID Cameron has held talks with Ratan Tata the Indian tycoon whose company owns Corus.
 The Prime Minister and Ratan Tata met during a trade mission to India this week for talks that were described as “constructive” by Downing Street.
We can o0nly hope that these talks included the ongoing saga of Teesside Cast Products. The Redcar plant was mothballed earlier this year with the loss of around 2,000 jobs despite a long campaign by the local community and Trade Unions.
Talks continue between Corus and Thai industrial group SSI about a possible deal over the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant. Unions have recently criticised Corus for not taking the interest of SSI seriously and that they have no intention of selling the plant.
Since TATA paid over £6bn for Corus in April 2007 the UK Steel Industry has gone from record profits to the brink of collapse.
Last year saw a large scale redundancy package announced, unilateral cancellation of production bonus payments and the announcement that the British Steel Pension Scheme would be closed to new employees.
Trade Unions threatened strike action over bonus and pension threats and the company backed down, but they are intent upon negotiating a new bonus scheme and the threat to the pension has not gone away despite 12 months of negotiation.
I wonder if the Prime Minister raised concerns about the obvious agenda for reducing the terms and conditions of UK Steelworkers?
Probably not as cutbacks are a significant part of his own agenda.