BFAWU General Election Statement

Despite saying that there were would be no snap General Election after she became Prime Minister, Theresa May (in classic Tory-style) has now performed a u-turn and set the date for June 8th. Don’t be fooled by people saying that this is a ‘brave’ decision. It isn’t. For starters, the Crown Prosecution Service is currently investigating thirty cases of alleged cheating and expenses fraud by the Conservatives during the 2015 election. Secondly, the government’s Brexit ‘negotiations’ look set for disaster, with the UK set to gain nothing other than a break-up of the country, as Scotland and Northern Ireland pursue independence. In addition to that, having injected poison into the NHS since 2010, the Conservatives are seeking to put it out of it’s misery by way of full privatisation. If that wasn’t enough, the government’s program of austerity will continue to ruin the lives of the vulnerable and those at the bottom end of the pay-scale. If an election was held in 2020, it’s likely that the public backlash against them would be immense. Theresa May is hoping that she can avoid all that and blindside the public by taking advantage of the polls and a mainly sycophantic mainstream media by winning a General Election now. That way, she can secure her position and have free reign to lay waste to the country and make the rich even richer in process, claiming that it’s the ‘will of the people’. The Prime Minister is showing neither courage, nor leadership. Like David Cameron before her, she’s playing political games to cover her own backside and protect her party. Make no mistake; barring the well-heeled end of society, the welfare of the British people is way down her list of priorities.

 

People need to pause for a second and think very carefully about this election. The media are already going out of their way to say that it’s as good as won for Theresa May and that it’ll be a landslide victory. They’ll roll out polls saying that the Tories are way ahead and that Labour has no chance of winning. Anyone with any degree of common-sense should know that polls aren’t a reflection of public opinion, they’re designed to shape and influence it and must therefore be disregarded. The reality is that the millions of decent, fair-minded people in this country have been presented with a golden opportunity to achieve genuine, positive change and equality on a scale not seen on these shores for generations. The political and media establishment will (for the most part), steer clear of Labour’s policies because they don’t want the public to know what they are. They’ll play the man instead of the ball by painting Jeremy Corbyn as an unelectable leader of a ‘chaotic’ party. After June 8th, it’s unlikely that the British people will ever have another chance to give neo-liberalism and the greedy establishment the kicking that it so richly deserves.

 

Look at the policies and judge for yourselves. A minimum wage of £10 an hour, investing in and safeguarding the NHS and social care, renationalising the railways, scrapping zero-hours contracts, free school dinners for all children, a program of building affordable homes, strengthening workers’ rights, protecting small businesses, security for pensioners and the elderly, support for carers, a foreign policy based on peace rather than conflict, scrapping the ‘bedroom tax’, scrapping the Work Capability Assessment and Brexit negotiations with people at the heart of it, are all policies worth getting behind and voting for. Contrast that with what the Tories are offering. Their main pitch will be Brexit and they will use the tried and tested formula of tapping into people’s fears, insecurities and prejudices in order to secure votes. They will offer nothing for the NHS, nothing for young people, nothing for the disabled and nothing for schools. They will however, offer plenty for the wealthy in this country by way of tax cuts and will go above and beyond in terms of attacking Trade Unions and their members, who make up more than six million of the country’s workforce. They will hedge their bets that fear, division and hate will see them through, as people vote in terms of which demographic Sky News, the Daily Express, the Sun and the Daily Mail say they should despise the most, be it immigrants or the unemployed, rather than what will have the biggest positive or negative impact on their lives. As always, they will take the country’s elctorate for fools.

 

Jeremy Corbyn is a rare breed. He’s an honest and decent man in politics who can’t be bought and who time and again has been on the right side of history, be it on wars in the Middle East, the NHS and the economy. He has no fear of standing by his principles and is neither irrational, nor impulsive. In terms of electability, Corbyn has been winning elections since 1983, often with increased majorities. The Labour Party that he inherited as leader was broken and demoralised after the 2015 election. Under his leadership and despite the savagery of the UK’s right-wing press and media, Labour has performed solidly in council, Parliamentary and mayoral elections, with membership figures that place it as one of the largest political parties in Europe. Corbyn has also nurtured young talent within the party, with the likes of Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Cat Smith doing an admirable job on the opposition front benches. The UK under Corbyn wouldn’t be a poodle for Donald Trump and the United States. The UK under Corbyn wouldn’t be a tax haven for the super-rich, nor would it be a prostitute for big business. The UK under Corbyn would be a society based on common values, social justice, peace and equality.

 

Don't be fooled by the smears, don't be conned by the Tories or those claiming to represent working class values. The working class has a party with working class values at its heart. Today's Labour Party will bring back an economy that works for all with re-investment, good jobs and fair pay. Don’t give Theresa May the blank cheque book she craves for her scorched Earth policies and don’t let the establishment keep the status quo any longer. Most of all, don’t squander this opportunity on June the 8th. Be brave, be bold and vote Labour.

Ian Hodson (National President)


Labour Party Pledge £10 An Hour Minumum Wage!

It's great news that a mainstream political party has recognised the importance of taking positive action to raise pay. Since 2008, politicians from all parties along with many in the media, have pushed the narrative that society will somehow improve by imposing austerity and blaming minority groups for the state of the country's finances. Sadly, many have fallen for this deception and the 'look over there' politics that has rose to prominence since the Conservatives returned to power in 2010.

Low pay and exploitative employment contracts are a blight on the economy and an insult to taxpayers, who have to foot the bill for in-work benefits whilst businesses and corporations count the profits. Labour's announcement that they will raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour in the event of a general election win in 2020 is very welcome and should be applauded by all in our society.

The BFAWU has long argued that rather than being used to fill the bank accounts of wealthy business owners through the use of in-work benefits, our taxes should be used to properly fund our NHS and other public services that we rely on. By raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour, we can take a giant stride towards making that a reality.

The introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage would be a game-changer for millions of working people, who are struggling to make ends meet, many of whom work in the food industry.

The BFAWU fully supports this pledge by Labour and as one of the party's longest standing affiliates, we will continue to make the case for a Labour government in 2020.

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)


Don't Let McDonalds Undermine Political Rights!

The hypocrisy of some employers is simply incredible. McDonalds has one of the largest political lobbying operations in the world and has pioneered the ‘low road economy’ by using it’s political activities to smash employment rights in just about every country it operates in. Indeed, in what would appear to be staggering hypocrisy and the death of all irony, McDonalds have worked with the Conservatives in terms of developing policies in relation to ‘healthy eating’ and obesity. Now, it turns out that McDonalds’ business ‘model’ includes a clause in employees’ contracts that forbids them from expressing any political affiliation whatsoever on social media. Despite being in total contravention of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Articles 19 and 22 of the United Nations' International Bill of Human Rights, the company continues to stick two fingers up at the law and acts with complete impunity in this country, thanks to a UK government that has a remarkable tendency to cheer on unscrupulous employers from the side-lines when it comes to shafting workers.

We must not allow the big corporations to shut down political activity or debate. The lack of engagement in politics down the years (especially among young people) has already led to an increasing trend (with honourable exceptions) of intellectual inferiors from privileged backgrounds being elected either as MPs or into government itself. There is a clear agenda to dumb down society and political debate as a whole, in order to facilitate this. In McDonalds' case, we believe that this contractual clause is a blatant attempt to choke off any momentum gained by the Fast Food Rights campaign and other activist organisations who have been highlighting grotesque employment practices within the fast-food sector for a number of years.

The BFAWU condemns the clause and demands its immediate removal. We would like to hear from any McDonalds worker, or anyone else in working in fast-food who has been threatened by their manager or faced a disciplinary process due to this clause or something similar. The UK is supposed to be a democracy; we will not tolerate the suppression of political beliefs and the undermining of political rights by employers in any way, shape or form.

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)


BFAWU Statement On Jeremy Corbyn And The Labour Party

The recent by-elections in Stoke and Copeland have sent the mainstream media and it’s political allies in Westminster into orbit with their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the current direction of the Labour Party. It’s true that Labour lost Copeland and it’s always disappointing to lose a seat in any election, but contrast the media coverage of the loss of a seat with a 2,500 majority with the complete lack of hysteria around the Tories losing the safe seat of Richmond last year, defending a majority of 23,000. The media have also been quiet about the Conservatives being pushed into third place in Stoke. As yet, I can’t recall any news reporter asking Theresa May if she’s going to resign.

The Stoke by-election was quickly disregarded by the media and enemies of Corbyn once Labour held the seat, beating UKIP in the process. That’s despite the Stoke constituency voting in favour of Brexit. To report even the merest whiff of a Corbyn triumph goes against the media narrative and subsequently, the agenda.

In reality, there were a number of factors that led to Labour losing the Copeland by-election. Boundary changes in the area had already benefitted the Conservatives before a vote was cast and it’s clear that UKIP voters in that constituency, switched back to the Tories and enabled them to win the seat. In addition to that, Labour’s majority in Copeland had been falling significantly since 1997 and the Labour candidate that stood for the election, wasn’t even Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred choice. If that wasn’t enough, wheeling out Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair to attack the party and it’s leader during the week leading up to the elections, whether it was by accident or design, didn’t help matters. Each of those factors might not look like that big a deal taken in isolation but collectively, they all contributed massively to the defeat and looking at it rationally, it’s ridiculous to ask Jeremy Corbyn to take sole responsibility for it.

It’s interesting that independent polling shows the policies being offered by Corbyn’s Labour have huge support among large sections of the public. However, when people realise that they are Corbyn’s policies, the reaction is often surprise because they tend to refer to the media’s narrative in terms of what he stands for. Our Union (the BFAWU) backed Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party in both elections and continues to support his efforts. This isn't because we’re a ‘hard-left’ cult that sees Jeremy Corbyn as a messiah who can do no wrong. It’s because we know that his intentions towards the people that we represent are genuine. Our members will have a far better, fairer chance both in life and in the workplace with common-sense policies being offered by an honest and decent man, with a proven track record of being in their corner and very often, on the right side of history.

Today's Labour Party is more in tune with the needs of our communities than ever before, with a shadow cabinet full of young talent who are connected to the aspirations of ordinary people in a way that we haven’t seen for decades. The media just don't want them to see it. Supporting a living wage of £10 an hour, stopping the privatisation of our NHS, introducing a national investment bank, building affordable homes, re-nationalising railways, ending zero-hours contracts, scrapping the bedroom tax, scrapping the work capability assessment and strengthening workers’ rights are all policies worth getting behind. Jeremy Corbyn’s vision brings young people into the equation for once, and offers them a future (particularly in education), rather than uncertainty, exploitation and subsequently, lost generations. A Corbyn-led Labour Party will challenge the government’s failure to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share and will address the grotesque gulf between executive pay and the wages of those at the bottom.

All this can be achieved. The Labour government that so many of Corbyn’s detractors in the party claim to want so much, can be realised if personalities are put to one side and everyone unites behind the twice elected leader, in order to give him the fair wind that he deserves. An vibrant shadow cabinet, a supportive Parliamentary Labour Party, a huge membership with active branches, along with continued Trade Union support and exciting ideas would be more than enough to crush the Conservatives in a general election.

Our decision to support Corbyn in 2015 was the right one and our continued support for his leadership remains exactly the same in 2017. As one of the Labour Party’s longest affiliated organisations, we’ve seen many changes and stood firm in the face of those who would take away our rights. Today's Labour Party represents us in a way we haven’t seen for a very long time and make no mistake; we will fight to get it into government, whenever that election is called. 

Yours in solidarity

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)


Open Letter To BFAWU Members In Stoke and Copeland

Dear Member

The upcoming by-elections in Stoke and Copeland are a real test for you, your communities and their values. The media will have you believe that these vitally important elections are some sort of referendum on Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership of the Labour Party. They may try and convince you that these elections are all about a ‘Brexit’ candidate versus a ‘Remain’ candidate. The reality, is that these are parliamentary by-elections. This is about electing someone to be your voice in Westminster; someone who is going to raise the concerns of you, your friends, neighbours and family members in a wider political arena. This being the case, it’s absolutely vital to be aware of exactly what you are voting for.

UKIP and the Conservatives will inevitably play ‘divide and rule’ politics. They will adopt the strategy used by Donald Trump and play on your anger, fears and insecurities. They will blame all of society’s ills on immigrants and people on benefits, whilst claiming that they’re going to make Britain 'great again'. They won’t tell you that it's a combination of greed, prejudice, cronyism and political ideology that lies at the heart of what is wrong with this country and/or your communities.

The lack of social/affordable housing is down to the government’s failure to build any; the sorry state of our NHS is down to a lack of government investment and an agenda of privatisation; the erosion of workers’ rights and spread of zero hours contracts, is down to the government’s attacks on Trade Unions and it’s strictly pro-business, pro-capital, everyone-else-be-damned mentality; the meteoric rise of foodbanks and homelessness is down to the government’s needless programme of austerity and cuts.

For probably the first time since Clement Attlee’s post World War II government created the NHS, provided both social security and council housing, and wiped out unemployment, the Labour Party is offering policies that would benefit communities such as yours: a firm commitment to restore employment rights and end the use of exploitative employment contracts, whilst raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour; the re-nationalisation of rail and our NHS, along with a house building programme that will provide decent, affordable homes for all who need them.

When it gets right down to it, the choice you are being faced with is a clear one. Do you choose a candidate who offers you hate and blame with no solutions and no ideas that will benefit your area? or do you choose a candidate that is willing to stick their head above the parapet on your behalf, fight to improve your community and protect the public services you rely on, such as your NHS? A candidate that will make the case for investment in jobs and decent housing. Someone with ideas, who offers equality and inclusivity.

The choice is not ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’; it's unity or division.

The BFAWU believes that the Labour Party offers the best opportunity for all it’s members to have a better life in a fairer society and we would therefore ask you to support the respective Labour candidates in the Stoke and Copeland parliamentary by-elections on February 23rd.

Yours in solidarity

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)

 


Stand Up To Racism On March 18th!

There is a toxic atmosphere of anti-migrant hysteria following the EU referendum, which has become normalised since the election of US President, Donald Trump and is being underpinned by the UK's Conservative government.

In a situation where migrants, Muslim women and others are being attacked and refugees are being abandoned by Britain and Europe to destitution, drowning and exploitation, there has never been a more important time in recent history to stand up to racism.

On March 18th, we wish to see the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration for UN Anti-Racism Day the biggest yet, to show that Theresa May does not speak for us when she blames migrants and refugees for the problems caused by austerity and the financial crisis.

Over the past 4 years, SUTR has organised a number of protests in defence of migrants and refugees. At their recent conference, 1,500 participants – including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Lord Alf Dubs and others – launched a mass anti racist movement. Let's join them in London in March 2017 so that we can stand up to racism together.

Details of the march are here, http://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/national-demo-refugees-migrants-welcome-stand-racism-islamophobia-anti-semitism/


End Union-Busting At Samworth Brothers!

Kumaran Bose was sacked by Samworth Brothers, the makers of Ginsters pasties, for having the audacity to stand up for his fellow workmates, after the company decided to slash their terms and conditions in order to fund the 'Living Wage', introduced by the Conservatives in 2016.

It's hard to believe that in the 21st century, a worker can be dismissed for voicing concerns about the impact of changes being proposed by their employer. The fact that very basic rights are denied to workers who are not in a unionised workplace is an absolute scandal, but all the more reason for workers everywhere to join a respective Trade Union and get organised.

If you believe in justice and the right to express your opinions, please click here and support the campaign to reinstate Kumaran Bose and end Union-busting at Samworth Brothers.


Sacked Samworth Brothers Worker Meets With MPs

Sacked team leader and BFAWU activist, Kumaran Bose, met with MPs including shadow ministers on 6/12/16 in order to discuss his recent dismissal from Ginsters manufacturer, Samworth Brothers Foods.

Kumaran spoke at length about how workers were left devastated by the slashing of their pay and conditions. He explained that many of them were left in tears, asking how they would afford to live. MPs listened and were shocked at the behaviour of this hugely profitable company, owned by one of the wealthiest men in the UK; someone who has built up a reputation in the public of being a fair and reasonable man.

It appears that the workers have a different story to tell, as was exposed recently by Channel 4 News. The slashing of workers' pay to fund the implementation of the ‘living wage’ in April 2016 is nothing short of disgraceful, but it is by no means an isolated case in the food industry. After speaking to Kumaran, MPs agreed that they would take measures to assist him, which will include approaching senior management at Samworth Brothers and inviting them to discuss their decisions about Kumaran Bose, but also to not slash their workers’ terms and conditions. They also agreed to take part in a rally that is being organised by the BFAWU, in order to highlight the impact of the so-called living wage, which far from boosting low wages, has actually led to a cut in income for some of the lowest paid people in the UK.

Sadly, since April, many profitable organisations have taken the decision to make their own workforces fund the small pay increase given to them by the then Chancellor, George Osbourne, as part of his ‘living wage’. It has recently emerged that a number of organisations, including Samworth Brothers are even going as far as to issue new contracts that will in addition to requiring workers to be available to work on Christmas Day, leave their workers significantly out of pocket throughout the year whilst the company’s profits continue to soar.

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)

Email: ian.hodson@bfawu.org Twitter: @IanBFAWU


Where's The Fire Engine, Daddy?

The UK is sleepwalking into a dystopian era; a country where unless you have the right insurance you will get no help or assistance from the state.

The government's seemingly endless austerity agenda has been underpinned by the virtually unchallenged Tory political ideology that public sector is bad, and private sector is king. The truth of course is that for the most part, anyone using services from outsourced or privatised providers be it transport or energy, will have little option but to cut their own budgets in order to be able to pay for them.

We hear and read stories on an almost daily basis about the elderly and those on low incomes having to decide whether to heat their homes or eat during the winter, along with stories about the rising costs of rail fares. Make no mistake, the government have similar plans for the NHS. The Conservatives never wanted a National Health Service and since 2010, they have embarked on a mission to starve it of funds, whilst selling off sections of it and offering multi-million pound contracts to the likes of Richard Branson and his Virgin empire. Unless we start to wake up and act, access to any form of medical care or assistance will depend on how much you can afford to pay by way of insurance. The government aren't prepared to stop there either. Emergency services, such as the police and fire services have also been stripped to the bone, as part of the government's agenda of small state and large scale private enterprise.

A short film has been made to provide a clear warning of what our future will look like if we don't stand up for our fantastic and dedicated public sector. We must stop the Tories selling off our services to their friends and cronies. Please watch and share. 

The film can be viewed here


BFAWU Statement On Samworth Brothers' Sacking Of Kumaran Bose

On December 6th 2016, Kumaran Bose will be meeting a number of MPs (including shadow ministers) to discuss his recent sacking by Samworth Brothers, a company known for it’s famous household brands, such as Ginsters and Soreen. He worked for Samworth Brothers for twelve years, with an unblemished work record.

Kumaran  started out with the company as a shop floor worker, but his skills and qualities, including a strong work ethic and ability to communicate effectively were quickly noticed by his employer. In a relatively short period, he was promoted to the role of Team Leader.  

However, everything changed for Kumaran after the Conservative government introduced it’s much heralded ‘living wage’ in April 2016. Like many other employers, Samworth Brothers decided to dodge the minor pay increase for those over the age of twenty-five by making their workforce fund it themselves.

As the company set out it’s agenda of slashing certain contractual terms that the workforce had, such as paid break-times, overtime rates and shift premiums, many workers at the site felt that the changes being proposed were unfair, especially as it was widely known that the company’s profits for the year were set to soar. The workers felt that they were being bullied into accepting the changes, with many being fearful about the detrimental effect that the changes would have on their ability to provide for themselves and their families. They were worried about how they would pay for their rent, food and clothes; the basics that a real living wage should be able to cover.

As a result, a number of employees approached  Kumaran for guidance, so in his role as Team Leader, he raised the workers’ concerns and asked searching questions to CEOs, during company briefings. Kumaran outlined the unfairness and the impact of cuts to workers pay, and pointed to the fact that it was only shop floor workers and team leaders who faced cuts to their pay and conditions. Unfortunately, the company’s response was that due to the introduction of the ‘living wage’, it had no option but to make the changes.

Feeling that they were running out of options, the workforce turned to the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) and met with representatives, who offered support and assistance. Consequently, hundreds of them joined the Union. However, despite many requests from employees and approaches from the BFAWU itself, a collective agreement and recognition of the BFAWU has always been resisted by Samworth Brothers, who state that they have a ‘works council’ that fully reflects the views and concerns of it’s workforce. This seemed to fly in the face of what was being told to Union Officials by employees, who stated quite clearly that they felt isolated, with their concerns being either unheard, or ignored. This was confirmed, as hundreds of workers started to attend public meetings arranged by the BFAWU, in order for employees at Samworth Brothers to raise issues and express concerns.

At this time, some of the media had picked up on the impact of the living wage and the subsequent cuts to terms and conditions that many low paid workers were facing in the UK. Although a good number of other large and profitable companies were using the same approach, journalists targeted Samworth Brothers, as they had been made aware of the company’s proposals and resulting unrest at the site. The management decided that Kumaran was responsible for the company being ‘named and shamed’, and as they regarded him as the person responsible for organising the BFAWU at the site, he was suspended from work. At his first disciplinary hearing, the initial reasons for Kumaran’s suspension were dropped, as they were based on false allegations. However, the company then changed tack by accusing him of a breach of confidentiality, despite there being no convincing evidence to back-up this claim. Kumaran’s role within the BFAWU was referenced on numerous occasions and he was told that he should cease his opposition to the contract changes. Kumaran was ultimately dismissed from Samworth Brothers and has since found it virtually impossible to find employment, due to the significant local media interest into his plight. As we move to the festive season, Kumaran faces a very difficult Christmas period, which will have a huge impact on both him and his family.

The meeting with MPs, is to discuss how the lack of protection given to workers’ terms and conditions has left them vulnerable to unscrupulous employers seeking to avoid paying the living wage. Rather than boost the incomes of low paid workers, the living wage has actually resulted in pay cuts for millions of them. The shocking state of the economy was finally exposed during the government’s recent autumn statement and it is now glaringly obvious that the drop in UK productivity is linked to the collapse of workers’ morale. This itself, is largely driven by certain employers and wealthy corporations who continue to subsidise and boost their profits at the expense of their workers. 

It's shameful, that a family man can be sacked for highlighting the unfairness of a multi-million pound business cutting it’s workers’ wages. Even more incredible, is that in 21stcentury Britain, you can face the sack for joining and organising a Trade Union by an employer that claims to have a Christian ethos and states that it acts in it’s employees best interests, yet is afraid of meeting and working with them as a collective entity.

Ian Hodson (National President)

Email: ian.hodson@bfawu.org

Twitter: @IanBFAWU