Blackburn and District Trades Union Council

Archive

Updated:25/10/2018

Insecure employment and Welfare Reform

Trades Council Secretary Ian Gallagher presented a Report to the February Trades Council meeting with reference to a number of reports published towards the end of 2014.

The New Policy Institute report “Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2014” had shown how, over the last decade, the number of working families in poverty had got worse. Only half the 13 million people in poverty in the UK were in families which, for one reason or another, had no work.

The TUC Report “Decent Jobs Deficit” had shown how a particular feature of the recession had been an increase in insecure forms of work. Over 1 million people were in part-time work because they could not get full-time work and there had been a corresponding growth in 0hrs contracts, Agency work and involuntary “Self-employment”. The problem of low pay was particularly associated with workers in insecure employment. The Quarterly Labour Force Survey April-June 2013 found that Average gross weekly pay for permanent workers was £479.26 whilst for those on 0hrs contracts it was £185.19.

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The growth in insecure and badly paid employment was associated with a feature that Dr Steve McIntosh called “hollowing out” in a Report for the Department of Business, Industry and Skills. This meant that economies were losing jobs in the middle rank by income whilst the number of jobs that were the lowest paid had grown. The September 2014 “Centre for Cities” Report “Unequal Opportunity” showed that this feature affected some cities more than others. Of 59 cities compared in the Report Blackburn with Darwen ranked 7th highest in respect of the growth of polarization between 2001 and 2011 – and this in an area where low pay was already prevalent. In Blackburn one in three workers earns less than two thirds the median wage but this falls to one in ten in the South East.

One feature of the Governments’ welfare report programme, and particularly of Universal Credit, was the extent to which it synchronized with and promoted the growth in insecure employment. The DWP leaflet “Universal Credit works for employers” promotes Universal Credit in these terms: “you will find it easier to fill any jobs as more jobseekers will be willing to consider short-term or irregular work”. The reality would be that workers would increasingly find themselves facing little choice.



Trades Council responds to public consultation on BBC Charter

The October meeting of Blackburn and District Trades Union Council agreed the following response to the public consultation on the review of the BBC Charter.

“A comparison of the existing BBC Charter with the range of issues covered by the Consultation Document reveals that its expiry is being taken as an opportunity to propose a much wider review of the BBC than would be implied simply by renewal of the Charter. The existing Charter is principally concerned with the structure and governance of the organisation, rather than with its scale, scope and function.

“The Consultative Document does not make a convincing case as to why any wide-ranging review should be necessary. There is no demand for this coming from the general public. OFCOM’s 3rd Review of Public Service Broadcasting, published this July, found that public satisfaction was running at a high level and had increased over recent years. According to OFCOM “Viewers value PSB programmes, and audience satisfaction is high. Close to eight in ten viewers (79%) believe PSB is delivering on its purposes – such as trustworthy news and high quality programmes that reflect the UK - a notable increase from 69% in 2008.

“We are worried that Lord Fowler was right to say “The cards are marked and somewhat stacked against us”. This Consultation Document seems to set the stage for a weakening of the BBC in the cause of those who would like to see it diminished – a view not shared by the British public but, as Tony Hall put it, “often put forward by people with their own narrow commercial interests or ideological preconceptions”.

“We see this as being an attack on a valued public institution driven by a desire to benefit commercial organisations to the detriment of the quality of life available to the majority of citizens. In this respect it is yet another instance of the malign impact of privatisation across the public sector.

“That part of the Charter dealing with “Incorporation and Purposes” seems to us to remain fit for purpose and there would appear to be no convincing argument for changing it.

“Adding a series of “values” actually does not add very much at all – it is merely a sort of posturing.

“The question about “elements of universality” appears to miss the point. As Richard Sambrook has put it, universality is about providing quality programmes for all audiences, including comedy and entertainment as well as news and education and arts. Getting into an argument that some components are more important than others simply opens the door to the idea that the BBC should no longer try to offer something for everyone – that it should, in essence, stay away from types of programmes that the commercial sector would offer.

“We do not accept this. We want our national broadcaster to be big and strong and to offer a comprehensive and diverse service across a whole range of genres and media. We want it to continue doing this because this is the best way for us to continue to receive the range and quality of programmes to which we have become accustomed.

“The core of the Consultation Document is a series of openly expressed concerns for the commercial sector:
• “The commercial television sector can struggle to compete”
• “Risk the BBC market share could grow”,
• “the scale of BBC’s online offer is impeding the ability of other UK news outlets”

“It seems to us that so much space is already available to the commercial sector, in both the free to air and subscription realms, that it cannot explain its market share simply by reference to the scale of the BBC. The public has wide choice and exercises it. The BBC needs to have scale to produce good outputs, but how well the public value these outputs is not subject to any constraint. People choose the BBC where they prefer its product. The fact that they do choose the BBC, in many cases, is a challenge to the commercial sector rather than an obstacle.

“Again, it appears that the purpose of the Consultation Document is really to pave the way for a smaller, less popular and less competitive BBC – hamstrung by the Government for the sole purpose of benefiting private corporations at the expense of the interests of the viewing public. There is not a word about how the reduction of the scale and scope of the BBC would increase product quality across the board, the reason doubtless being that the likely outcome would be a reduction rather than an improvement in quality not just from the BBC but across the piece.

“The leading role of the BBC helps keep the commercial sector up to scratch. A weakened BBC will lead to a decline in quality in the commercial sector also.

“Of course, there is always room for improvement. We do not find the BBC to be perfect. We feel, for instance, that too much of its news coverage consists of “correspondents” commenting on events from a distinct point of view that we would consider right wing and that much reporting reflects an unconscious bias. We would like to see the cuts to Local Radio reversed. We would like to see cricket Test Matches in which England play broadcast live on the BBC. We would like to see a weekly TV programme dealing with workplace and community issues from a TU perspective.

“And we could go on. But is this really the place for such issues? In principle, it is important that the BBC is responsive to a wide range of constituencies and has effective channels for taking and reflecting on feedback. Apart from this observation, the questions of audience and content really should be a standing debate, which really does not relate to the Charter as such.

“We feel that there are only two funding options that bear consideration. Funding through the Licence Fee or funding from general taxation. The Licence Fee has the virtue of being a tax that a degree of circumstance based opting out can be applied to and which the public can see contributing to a specific range of services and outcomes. Nobody has come up with an alternative that does not have more flaws.

“The key point is that what is settled on the BBC needs to both sufficient and proportionate.

“We were unhappy to see the cost of providing free licences to the over-75s passed over to the BBC because it should not be up to it to make or to manage such national policy decisions. If the Government wants to abolish or modify such a concession it should be identified as being the responsible body.

“We are also unhappy that the Consultation Document floats the idea that “some funding should be made available to other providers to deliver public service content”. This is undoubtedly just another backdoor effort to give succour to the commercial sector.

“The BBC has never had a particularly open model of governance, more or less starting from the position that other public bodies have over recent decades been drawn towards.

“For public bodies in general we advocate a composition like that of the District Health Authorities before they were abolished to make way for Health Service Trusts. At least a proportion of seats should be in the “gift” of bodies which can claim to have a representative structure behind them, such as the TUC.”

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Report from National Hazards Conference 2017

Red Tape

The following is a Report from Trades Council Secretary, Karen Narramore, from the 2017 Hazards Conference.

Friday Evening
We heard from Jessica Martinez, from ‘COSH – Grassroots Health & Safety in Action’ from California. She described how they work closely with Unions in opposing Trump’s proposals to make massive cuts to H & S. Interestingly, despite Trump’s Islamophobic stance, and the USA’s ‘War on Terror’, Americans are 270 times more likely to be injured in a workplace accident than a terrorist attack.

Next was Dan Shears from the GMB National health and Safety Department whose session was ‘Brexit Blues – where leaving the EU might leave us.’ He shared his personal thoughts rather than the GMB’s policy. He was not optimistic that withdrawal would bode well for health and safety.

We then had a very moving contribution from Tracey Seward, who was widowed, and her young daughter left fatherless, when her Engineer husband Mark suffered a catastrophic brain injury and died due to his employer’s negligence (AGD). No remorse was expressed by the company. They even stopped Mark’s sick pay prior to his death and showed no concern for the family. They were fined £800,000 due to support from FACK (Families against Corporate Killers, who support affected families, with specialist solicitors to bring unscrupulous employers to justice, and provide other support for families. (Donations always welcome to assist in their work).


Saturday morning
Workshop 1
I attended a Workshop on excessive workloads. This was delivered by Ian Draper of Workstress.net – Lots of info available at workstress.net or contact him on iandraper@workstress.net. We covered the many illnesses which can be caused by stress, most of which are well known to us. We also discussed that being a Union Rep can be very stressful, as constantly dealing with others’ problems. Members always expect us to be available for them, without recognising that Reps are under stress too.

All the data from the workshop will be available on the Workstress and Hazards websites. We undertook a personal and group workload audit, which was an interesting exercise. It was an interesting workshop though unfortunately we did not come up with a cure for workplace stress.

Workshop 2
Resisting Resilience and Wellbeing.
This was a brilliant workshop, delivered by Hugh Robinson from TUC.

‘Resilience’ and ‘Wellbeing’ are two trendy buzzwords at the moment, which we will all have come across. Hugh described the concept of ‘Resilience’ as akin to buying a ‘manky out of date chicken from Tesco’, and taking it back to complain. So they say “If it’s made you ill, it’s probably that you haven’t built up enough resilience to the germs – maybe next time buy one just a couple of days out of date, instead of 2 weeks to help you build up resilience!”

This, he said, is what Employers are trying to do by promoting resilience – i.e. not addressing the issues which are making workers ill, but trying to change the worker and place the onus on them. Or to use another analogy, it’s like trying to make someone able to withstand being hit by a bus, by building up gradually by first hitting them with a pushbike, then a small car, then a Land Rover etc. Apparently the concept of resilience started in Hawaii. Hugh explained Resilience is about try to make people stronger before something happens. Or trying to identify so-called ‘eggshell’ or ‘snowflake’ (i.e. delicate / inherently weak) personalities and make them more robust. Some employers are also using potentially illegal pre-employment questionnaires to weed out people likely to be less resilient. He pointed out that if humans are subject to excessive levels of stress, they are likely to become ill at some point. This is not rocket science.

Apparently many Resilience Trainers are ex- NLP Trainers. Neurolinguistic Programming was big in the 1990s / early 2000’s but was in his words found to be ‘ a lot of drivel.’ So NLP was reinvented as Resilience. This was all news to me and I found it quite interesting. Employers like Resilience Training, because it is cheaper for them to employ Trainers or Consultants than to address the causes such as excessive workloads and understaffing. Hugh said that there is evidence that the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) Management Standards actually work (It should be about changing the workplace to make it safe. It shouldn’t be about blaming people with ‘eggshell personalities’ and trying to train them to ‘man-up.’ ) It is true that some people may be more vulnerable to the effects of stress than others, but they should not be demeaned, and it should be handled in the same way as for anyone vulnerable to the effects of environmental factors. For example, if someone was prone to asthma it would be expected that the employer should remove or reduce asthma triggers in the workplace – not that the asthma sufferer themselves should be removed, or expected to cure themselves of the condition. Resilience training apparently includes:- - Training people to shut off emotions - Trying to equip people to deal with excessive workloads and stress.

He reported that a battleground often develops where Occupational Health claim someone is fit for work, but the GP says they aren’t. The Union position would be that the GP is best placed to judge, but the Jury seems to be out on this one. A lot of Consultants are also using ‘Mindfulness.’ This was not dismissed out of hand and many people find it helpful. There seems to be no dispute that it can be helpful for people who have already become ill in helping them to cope, but there is apparently no evidence at all that it prevents people from becoming ill. This is apparently evidence based as shown by several studies. One US Study involved two groups with no prior stress-related illness. One group practiced Mindfulness. The other group regularly watched the History Channel. The History Channel was actually found more effective at preventing illness, as less people subsequently became ill in that group, that in the Mindfulness group.

Similarly, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can also be helpful for people already having problems, but can’t prevent problems from developing if the underlying causes aren’t addressed. Employers may start initiatives such as ‘becoming Mindful Employers’, introducing Desktop Yoga, or offering Complementary Therapies. They may also promote / provide Healthy Eating, Free Fruit, Gym Memberships, low cost cycles etc. These are often popular with the workforce, and are ‘nice to have’ so obviously unions wouldn’t oppose them. But they aren’t a substitute for taking practical steps to reduce the causes of work-related illness. Far more beneficial would be ensuring that people aren’t over-worked so that they have time to go to the gym/swimming/walking/cycling, and plan, shop for and prepare healthy meals. And better pay to enable people to buy healthier food and enjoy their leisure time. Hugh clarified that the training given to Emergency Services workers to deal with traumatic situations is entirely different, and helps people to deal with their emotions, not shut them off. By contrast, the training given to the Armed Forces is designed to enable them to shut off their emotions. This, he suggested, shows that Resilience Training does not work, as ex-soldiers are statistically more likely to turn to crime, develop drug or alcohol problems, develop mental illness, and many end up homeless. Ambulance Trusts and the Fire Service have recognised that Resilience Training is not the right approach, as it is not healthy to turn off the emotions. Apparently the HSE takes a dim view of Resilience Training and concurs that it has no place in preventing stress.

For further info, Download the TUC Guide to Wellbeing from the Health and Safety Section on the TUC Website. This was done in conjunction with the Health & Safety Executive. It was suggested Unions consider doing a members’ stress survey, using the HSE Guidance.

The workshop ended with a bit of a history lesson. Previous names for stress-related illness have included ‘nerves’, ‘nervous debility’, and ‘melancholia.’ There have always been, and still are, ‘Sales People’, selling stuff that does not work. Final quote from Hugh Robinson – “Resilience is an excuse for employers to do what does not work, rather than address the causes of stress.” For further info google / download Unison leaflet - Resilience and well-being. A Guide for Members.

Saturday afternoon
Continued in the same theme as I attended a packed campaign meeting entitled “Challenging the Individual Therapy View versus Collective Action to Prevent Work Causing Mental Ill-Health” Not exactly a snappy title, but it was quite a good workshop, delivered by Paul Moloney, Psychologist and Author of The Therapy Industry.

There are apparently over 400 kinds of ‘talking therapies’ such as counselling, CBT etc. It is recognised that ‘Being at work can improve health and wellbeing’ (Fryer 1985, Rogers & Pilgrim 2010’ – BUT – ‘When demand is high, and control, pay and status are low, then being in work can be worse for the health than being unemployed’ (Rogers & Pilgrim 2016, Walker 2012) “The incidence of depression among health workers, compared with the general population is alarming, and is an issue that spans nearly all healthcare professions.” (Lancet 2017) Workplace stress causes as much damage to people’s health as second hand tobacco smoke.

There has been a steep rise in workplace suicides since 2007 (reported by the Lancet).

A Samaritans report in 2017 links the increased suicide rate among working people to a deterioration in conditions, unmanageable workloads, and job insecurity. Although high-flying executive type positions, or highly paid professional roles, are generally thought of as stressful (and often they may be), studies show that the highest earners actually have the lowest rate of mental ill health, and those on low incomes have the highest prevalence. People in deprived areas also have 10 X the risk of suicide. There is also evidence that when someone is edgy and unhappy, the immune system is compromised, the risk of cardiovascular problems increases, and the ageing process accelerates. As in the previous workshop, it was noted that many employers are introducing Mindfulness classes, Wellbeing Training, Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Team Building Exercises, and some have even appointed ‘Chief Happiness Officers!’. (It would be interesting to see the job description and person specification for that one). Paul also expressed the view that these things are all well and good, but there is little evidence-based proof that any of these initiatives are effective in preventing work related ill health. Interestingly he also said there is evidence that ‘amateur’s – i.e. people with no formal qualifications who spend time listening to someone, gain as good results as qualified professionals in the ‘talking therapies.’ We again touched on ‘Mindfulness’ – “The bottled holy water of the Therapy Industry.”

He described this as a reinvention of ‘Mesmerism’ in the 18th Century. ‘Transcendental Meditation’ and ‘Biofeedback’ are also similar. Paul asserts that there is no evidence for the superiority of Mindfulness or similar techniques, over ordinary relaxation, such as feet up with a good book or a walk by the sea.. He also said that there is documented evidence of some people becoming even more anxious using such techniques, or even malevolent or homicidal (which seems rather extreme I thought). He pointed out “People don’t have a fatal flaw making them more prone to mental disease. Yes, some people may be more sensitive / perceptive, but also, the world is much, much unkinder to some people than others. Those from higher social classes, and with better income, will have more positive things in their lives, more money to enjoy their leisure time and more material things, to counteract the bad things which the working classes have to deal with.” He also made the valid point, which is often overlooked by Employers, Union Members and often the Reps themselves, that Union Reps need help and support and are susceptible to mental breakdown due to the stress of the job – we are expected to always be available to deal with members’ problems, and to work long hours for often poor pay. Unfortunately he did not offer any clear solution to this problem. It was suggested that Unions should oppose Employers’ attempt to introduce ‘Mental Health Champions’ and similar, as a way of bypassing unions.

There was quite a debate, in response to a question which someone raised, about “at which point (if ever) should we breach confidentiality if someone declares that they feel suicidal?” There were a range of views expressed, but the consensus was that the Rep should first encourage the person themselves to disclose, assist them in accessing appropriate help, but if a member discloses that they or someone else is at serious risk of harm, there is a duty to report it to the most appropriate person – if in doubt contact the emergency services. It was highlighted that Reps need to be able to offload but frequently this is not available. All this generated a lot of debate about confidentiality v reducing risk of harm. The GMB are apparently drafting guidance for Reps on what to do if someone discloses suicidal thoughts, which is coming out on World Suicide Day in September. We were encouraged to check out Hugh Robertson’s blog on the TUC Website.

We then had another Campaign Meeting:-

Decline of Welfare Standards at Work
This was delivered by John Bamford, TUC. Again this was interesting and far ranging. We were encouraged to obtain a copy of Redgraves Health & Safety in Factories – Which contains a lot of useful information on workplaces generally (not just factories), but is a surprisingly interesting read too. John’s copy was obviously a much loved and well-thumbed tome, and he took us through some of his favourite bits – such as the ‘Tripe Dressers and Gut Scrapers Regulations.’ One is never sure when they might come in handy!

However we should not forget that Welfare is as a much a legal right as Health and Safety – i.e. we have the 1992 Health, Safety & Welfare Regulations. But Employers have gradually got away with ignoring their ‘Welfare’ obligations. The law requires that ‘suitable accommodation should be provided for clothes (eg. coats), and somewhere to rest and eat. However many employers have removed the provision for tea-breaks, other than the 20 minutes in a 6 hour shift allowed by the Working Time Regulations. Staff rooms in work areas have been turned into offices etc, and most people are no longer allowed changing time. If people are expected to use the Staff Restaurant because there is no local staff room, or space to prepare/store food, this can actually mean they don’t get a proper break by the time they have walked to the Restaurant some distance away, queued for food etc. It was suggested we should use the H S & W Regulations to negotiate for restoration of tea-breaks and workplace facilities – which was useful advice I thought We then got into a discussion about the lack of public toilets, and the impact on mobile workers.

Someone even reported being in a workplace where they have to ask permission to go to the toilet, where toilet breaks are timed, and they are in trouble if they take more than 3 minutes!! We discussed that eating at your desk was once almost unheard of, but is now common practice. It has apparently been proven that “there are more germs on a computer keyboard than on a toilet seat. The point was made that if someone only has a half hour unpaid lunch break (which applies to many Health workers), yet is unable to exercise their right to a proper break, this is a clear indication that the workload is excessive. Working through breaks and eating at your desk masks the problem and gives the employer an excuse not to deal with the excessive workload. I think many of us are guilty of this. Suggested actions from the meeting were:-

- Obtain a copy of, and follow the advice in The Hazards of Work and How to Fight Them – Pat Kinsley (or could be Kinnersley? Not sure of the spelling). - Ensure that Union Health & Safety Inspections should include inspections of Welfare Facilities, rather than just concentrating on hazards - Run a Take a Break Campaign to highlight the problem of excessive workloads - Obtain and utilise the publications from the HSE Website – www.hse.gov.uk

Saturday night
An excellent evening in the Pub, on campus, with North West Colleagues from Unison and other Unions. This included a community sing-a-long with John Murphy and Alan McShane, TUC Tutors, on guitar. The rest of us formed backing vocals. What some of us lacked in talent we made up for in enthusiasm....

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Sunday morning
We arose bright and early for the closing plenary session.

This consisted mostly of feedback from the workshops of the day before, and a summary of what the Government cuts to Health and Safety actually mean:- - 2 million made ill by work - 621,000 recorded injuries - ½ million suffering from stress - 140 dying every day as a result of workplace illness or injury – this is a staggering figure when considering that it greatly exceeds the number of people murdered (574 a year for 2015), and 630 service personnel killed in 14 years in Iraq and Afghanistan

David Cameron and Theresa May have described their savage cuts to Health and Safety as a ‘Bonfire of Red Tape.’ Unfortunately this has resulted in the Grenfell Tower disaster – which was a real life bonfire of people, with tragic loss of life. In the Wake of Grenfell, the Daily Mail (who have long derided Health and Safety and the unions who promote it), had the breath-taking hypocrisy to ask, in bold headlines, “HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN.” The response from Hazards is a resounding ‘You vile, vicious corporate ******** (use your imagination) – You did it!” It was reported that Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council are likely to be charged with corporate manslaughter.

Conference ended with a group photoshoot, of delegates around a life-size cut-out of Theresa May, holding up our placards saying “We want Red Tape – not more bloody bandages.”


This is a much longer report than I would normally do, but there was so much information, and such a lot of useful advice, that I felt it was worth the effort. If you have read this far, thanks so much for sticking with it, and do make a point of applying to go to Hazards Conference next year.




Karen Narramore
2017



Report from National Hazards Conference 2014

Pay Fair

The September Trades Council meeting received a report from CWU delegate John Southwell, who attended the 2014 National Hazards Conference on behalf of the Trdaes Council.

Here are extracts from his Report:

Speakers were;
Ian Hodson President BFAWU
Nancy Lessin USW/WU
Aida Ponce del Castillo ETUI

Ian Hodson thanked Hazards for inviting him to speak this most prestigious event. He gave a passionate speech about zero hour contracts & said that they were the biggest problem for workers today. In one example fifty people were texted to show up for work on these zero hour contracts, this would be for only one place, if you did not show up you were not texted again!

He said it was OK for there to be food banks & have companies like Wonga lending money at extortionate rates, NO it is not! This is appalling when the UK is the sixth richest country in the world! The present coalition Govt. have taken us back to the 1870's. He said that sometimes the working classes forget the power they have & to mention solidarity is very important & never to cross a picket line. Mr Hodson said that there were more of us than them & all we have to do is stick together & what we need now is a general strike! Everyone applauded.

He gave an example of a Berger King manager who was on four hour a week contract, he often did forty hours but his contract meant that he got four hours sick pay & annual leave! He recalled the Hovis dispute when more than 400 bakery workers voted overwhelmingly to end two weeks of strike action in a protracted dispute over zero hours contracts at the Hovis bakery in Wigan.“The sense of solidarity among the workers has been absolutely brilliant. Under a settlement which was put to the workforce on Saturday (21 September 2013), agency employees who work 39 hours per week for 12 consecutive weeks will be moved to parity pay. BFAWU said the strikes had been triggered after the company broke an agreement designed to limit the number of agency workers at the Lancashire bakery, so that people were only employed on “zero hours” contracts in absolute emergencies. Following talks, the company has now agreed that future production will be covered from overtime and “banked hours” by members of the full-time 400-strong workforce. Union reps say the increasingly confident wave of strikes had secured “everything we were looking for”. However, negotiators have insisted that the local management of Premier Foods, which owns the Hovis brand, must put the new agreement to them in writing before they formally call off further strike action.

The second of the two week-long stoppages had seen scores of strikers and supporters blockading one of the gates at the Wigan site. They prevented up to 80% of scheduled delivery lorries from leaving the bakery. Strike organisers said those lorries which did leave were so heavily delayed that they would have failed to meet their delivery deadlines for stores in the Midlands and North Wales. Drivers based at the Wigan bakery had refused to run the gauntlet of noisy, but largely good-natured pickets with the Hovis-liveried lorries on health and safety grounds. Some workers at the Wigan bakery had been on zero hours contracts for up to 3 years before they were given full-time posts, only to find they were doing the same job as they had been doing previously on a temporary contract. The local Labour MP, Lisa Nandy, had told the company the dispute gave Premier Foods an opportunity to reach a settlement which could “demonstrate to the whole country that people do not have to put up with terms and conditions that blight lives and blight whole communities”.

Nancy Lessin (USW/WU)

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Nancy is employed by the United Steelworkers' Tony Mazzocchi Centre for Safety, Health and Environmental Education. The United Steelworkers (USW) International Union is an affiliate of the national AFL-CIO. Prior to her employment with the USW, Ms. Lessin served as the Health and Safety Coordinator for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. From 1979-1999 she worked for the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health where she designed and presented occupational safety and health training programs for workers and unions in Massachusetts. She has an MSc in Labour Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a BA from the University of Michigan. She currently serves on the AFL-CIO's Staff Subcommittee on Occupational Safety and Health, and on the Advisory Board for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Occupational Health Surveillance Program. She served for five years as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH); and also served for five years on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's National Occupational Research Agenda "Organization of Work" Workgroup.

At one point she was ashamed to admit that her Union had turned into a law firm to be able to look after their members. In the USA fewer than 12% of companies are unionised in the public sector & that drops to only 7% in the private sector. There is too much focus on changing work processes. In the USA you are sacked for not reporting an accident immediately. She said that all work accidents are because of an exposure to a hazard & that it is NOT the fault of the worker. In California there was an ATM to dispense drugs, no need for a pharmacy now! In Ohio workers have a microchip (smaller than a grain of rice) implanted in their arm that allows them access through doors, you will not be surprised to hear that it is a non-unionised company. In one company they said that employees having an accident would have to wear a special orange vest! The Union said it would buy ALL workers these vests, the company withdrew the idea! Management also introduced a form that reported on what workers were doing & where they were at any one time, the Unions then introduced a Specially Observed Bosses form (or SOB form!) for the workers to complete about their bosses, again these forms were then withdrawn! In another example General Dynamics USA wanted their employees to work on a Saturday, there were a lot of divorcees & they only saw their kids on a Saturday. It was planned to get their children to picket the company complete with placards the children had made in crayon! It did not need to happen as the company got wind of what was happening & immediately withdrew Saturday working!

If you are not at the table you ARE on the menu!

Aida Ponce del Castillo (ETUI)

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Aida Ponce Del Castillo is lawyer by training. Additionally she holds a MA in bioethics with specialization in human genetics. She has followed doctoral studies in Law at the University of Valencia, Spain and in Development, Sustainability and Natural Resources Management at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Her research at the ETUI which she joined in 2008 focuses on legal and ethical issues regarding nano-technologies and European policy. She speaks, Spanish, English, French & German. Aida spoke about the complex issue of the transatlantic trade & investment partnership (TTIP) which in a nutshell is a charter for deregulation, an attack on jobs & an end to democracy!

In the USA in 2010 only one percent of the thousands of chemicals have been tested! One fact was mentioned during this session, eighty six people have been prosecuted or jailed in one year for being cruel or hurting animals, in eighteen years just five people have been prosecuted for breaching H & S law!

Saturday AM 1st workshop session
There were 14 of us on this workshop from all from different unions. I was in a group of three & given a scenario where "James" was the safety rep within a warehouse & there was an accident on the nightshift. He was not informed by the nightshift manager but by one of the member’s friends.

James discovered that his member had received some quite serious injuries. Our group came up with the following actions;
Interview at least five people
Take phots of the site & injurys
Obtain shift rotas
Ask why the manager delay in informing James
PPE provided & worn?
What training has the member had?
Any CCTV footage?
Any feedback from members?
Any previous accidents?

Alan McShane UCU safety rep. - SRSC safety committees strength or weakness?

Alan said it was important that you put SRSC in front of your particular safety committee letters to remind all how important they are & that it’s the law requires firms to consult with their employees on matters that affect their health & safety.

It also states that meetings should be 50-50 or with more safety reps present than managers. Also remember to fully advertise your victories & make sure your members & management are made fully aware of them!

Some good points are;
Reporting back
Good comms with members
Networking
Invite USR's to meetings
Involve management
If meeting with management have a "pre-meet"
If a decision cannot be made do NOT vote on it!

Remember that at this meeting you are representing your members on what could be a life or death situation!

Organising & Campaigning Meeting - Hilda Palmer Hazards Campaign

Aim was to build a campaign there was a good turnout for Hilda's session she gave some information out & talked for a short while about the Hazards campaign & the number of centres they have around the UK.

Hazards were formed in 1987 & this was the 25th Conference. There were approximately three hundred delegates at conference this year.

There was growing concern for H & S deregulation in the EU, also the HSE has only two workers representatives on the board & all else were retired! There has been a 44% cut in their budget in the last four years. The self-employed workers are exempt from the H & S at work act if not in a small specific group. The HSE also now charge to investigate, known as fee for intervention.






Death of Clive Edwards

BDTUC

Clive Edwards, former head of the Trade Union Studies Centre at Blackburn College died on Friday 15 August 2014.

Peter Billington, LATUC Secretary, posted the following tribute:

In 2001, Clive was presented with the TUC Gold Badge for his services to trade unionism. This is only given to three people each year and was mainly in recognition for his work in setting up the Trade Union Studies Centre at Blackburn College. This was officially opened by the TUC General Secretary in the 1970s and provided courses for shop-stewards, health and safety representatives, and union representatives. This was the beginning of trade union education and training not only in Blackburn but throughout Lancashire as a whole.

The Centre grew to providing over sixty courses each year covering Blackburn, Blackpool, Preston, Lancaster, Bolton, Accrington, Burnley, and many other parts of Lancashire.

Clive had to fight many battles within the College and with local employers to ensure that trade union members got the support they deserved.

Thousands of trade unionists will remember Clive as a person who gave them inspiration, knowledge and confidence. Clive’s trade unionism was borne out of the hardship and comradeship experienced in a Welsh mining valley in the 1930s. No-one who suffered some injustice from an employer and asked for his support would be turned away.

Clive was a University and College Union (UCU), formerly NATFHE, member until his death. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was the chair of Blackburn College NATFHE Branch and a delegate to Blackburn TUC, the Lancashire Association of TUCs, and the NW TUC. He was Press Officer and an Executive Committee member of Blackburn TUC and was chair of the Lancashire Association of TUC’s committee which inaugurated the Burnley and Blackpool May Day Festivals. Clive was a Labour Party member for over 45 years and held various positions including Branch Secretary, Chair, and Annual Conference delegate. He was also the Press Officer to the Labour Parliamentary candidate who stood against Enoch Powell in the 1970 general election. He regarded the Labour Party as a means of changing things for the better for working people. When the Labour Party began to abandon many socialist principles from the 1990s to the present day, Clive believed the trade union movement should set up a new party. Clive also held positions on public bodies. He was a trade union member of the Blackburn, Hyndburn & Ribble Valley District Health Authority during the 1980s and during the same period was a trade union member of the NE Lancashire Manpower Services Commission. He was also a trade union member of the Manchester Employment Tribunal. He was Chair of the governing body of Everton Comprehensive High School in Blackburn for six years during the 1980s.

Clive was an adult education student himself who went back to education in his thirties at Coleg Harlech, the Welsh college which specialised in degree level courses for working class students with few or no qualifications. When his course ended he became the Head of the college library. He valued reading and self-education highly and will be very badly missed by the many people who had the pleasure of his witty, friendly and well-informed company.













The Budget Deficit

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Britain was given a choice in the General Election of May 2010 between three main political parties, all of whom were agreed on a need to reduce public borrowing and that cuts to public spending would play a major part in this.

During the Election, the differences between the parties were ones of scale and speed, rather than of overall direction. Most voters went for candidates who at least tended towards some caution. We got, though, a Government committed to the most drastic option.

The Labour Government planned to introduce £52bn of cuts by 2014/15 and to increase taxation by £21bn. The Conservative Government plans to have an extra £32bn in spending cuts and £8bn in tax increases.

David Wearing, of the New Left Project has written of these plans: “No precedent exists for such a massive and swift attack on the public sector of society and the economy, but what is clear is that many thousands of lives will be damaged, even ruined, in many thousands of real and personal ways, often irretrievably, as a result”.

Is there really no alternative? The Trade Unions are putting forward a case that there is – but that it is one which questions not only current Government policy but also the pre-election consensus.

Discussing the situation at its September meeting, the Trades Council felt that there were three key aspects.

In the first place, it was important that we should define ourselves as dealing not with a “deficit” problem, but with a cyclical economic crisis.

The cost of shoring up the finance sector was large, but what has really hit the public finances is the collapse of tax revenues contingent on the subsequent period of recession and slow growth. Tax receipts in 2009 to 2010 were £100bn lower than the Treasury had been predicting only two years previously.

Some genuine criticism can be made of the Labour Government’s economic policy prior to the cyclical crisis. Britain’s public finances in 2007 to 2008 were in a stronger position than they had been when Labour came to power in1997, but other OECD countries had done even more to benefit from successive years of growth. On OECD figures the UK had a structural budget deficit of 3.3% of national income in 2007 – the third highest of the G7 countries and the sixth highest of the 26 OECD countries for which data existed. 11 of these had structural budget surpluses.

Labour did attempt to use a greater proportion of borrowing to fund investment, but it kept its confidence in a low-regulation, finance sector driven model of the economy which left the country particularly vulnerable to a crisis working its way through this sector.

To speak of the current situation in terms of “the mess that Labour left” is, however, as Colin Talbot, Professor of Public Policy and Management at Manchester Business School, put it “self-serving nonsense from people determined “not to waste a good crisis” and use this one as an opportunity to “roll back the frontiers of the state””.

Whether you select historical or international comparisons there was nothing extreme or extravagant about Labour’s record. Public spending as a proportion of GDP was, in 2008, lower than the average level under the previous Conservative Governments and it was lower in Britain than in France, Italy, Austria, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries.

Labour’s flaws lay not so much with their management of the public finances as in its confidence in a conventional economic wisdom which started to collapse across all the OECD towards the end of 2007.

The second aspect of the situation we want to emphasise is that policy should be tested not by its efficacy in reducing the deficit but by its efficacy in restoring sustainable growth to the economy.

It is likely that a proportion of the public spending deficit will prove to be cyclical and that it will be reversed if growth recovers. The bulk of the British Government’s debt, moreover, is not short-term, with an average maturity period of 14 years.

As with any other financial markets there are strong psychological and political variables that can undermine any Government strategy. The markets should, however, have no major concerns about continuing to fund British Government borrowing so long as there is a national strategy for growth.

We tend to speak of “the banks” as the culprits of the credit crunch – but this is very much shorthand for the financial sector in general. Surely it would try public patience beyond endurance was this sector – having been the location of the crisis and then having been bailed out by the public – to make demands that the public sector be cut in the interests of the institutions which led the way over the cliff in the first place.

What is “sustainable” about any given level of Government debt is not a particular point along the line of borrowing as a proportion of public spending. As with many other things, there is a range of reasonable alternatives. Growing the economy can help “fix” the deficit. Simply cutting the deficit risks a self-defeating slide back into recession.

Our third area of concern is this: that even if there does prove to be a need for some fiscal consolidation it does not follow that the only tool to achieve this is public service cuts.

Whilst all of the main political parties entered the 2010 General Election on a platform of deficit reduction none of them offered the option of achieving this principally through increased taxation. Yet Britain is not a particularly highly taxed country. Prior to the economic crisis, taxes as a proportion of GDP tended to run close to the OECD average.

There is plenty of scope for changing the revenue/spending balance through taxation, and these taxes would be a more socially equitable means of doing this.

In June this year, for instance, the IPPR “Think Tank” produced a report which argued that the British financial sector could afford to contribute an extra £20bn a year in taxes, such as a Financial Transaction (“Robin Hood”) Tax.

The TUC has estimated that £25bn is lost to tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and companied each year and that a further £8bn is used up in tax allowances and reliefs.

We also need, as a nation, to release politicians from their fear of even mentioning Income Tax. Of course, we don’t like Income Tax, but if we are to have a mature dialogue about the sort of society we wish to create then the question of levels of personal taxation must play a part in this. There is surely scope for a rise in the basic rate?

In addition to possible tax revenues, we should also be willing to examine whether there is the possibility of using the financial assets effectively nationalised in order to shore up the financial sector. The Government should look to have a much more directional control over these, as opposed to the “hands off” approach adopted in the establishment of UK Financial Investments Ltd.

Whilst we fully support the TUCs efforts to build a major social campaign against the cuts we agree with the observation of Seumas Milne, in the “Guardian”: “Opposition to [the] cuts has to be underpinned by a political campaign to win the economic argument against austerity”. Campaigning may help create a climate in which such a new politics emerges. In the final analysis, though, our future will depend upon whether or not the public sees through the decoy that the cuts are inevitable and necessary.






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