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)
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)
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/
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
Fair pay for the work people do is a basic right. Workers should not be facing hardship as a result of poverty pay, particularly at Christmas.
A march and rally in support of a real living wage of £10 an hour will take place at Devonshire Green in Sheffield at 1pm on Saturday, December 17th.
The event is supported by a number of other Trade Unions such as Unite and the GMB, along with the BFAWU. and local Trades Councils.
For more information, click here
McDonalds make billions in profits worldwide each year, yet continue to exploit and neglect workers with zero hours contracts, poor pay and Union-busting techniques.
The Fight For $15 campaign has launched a petition, asking people to stand with McDonalds workers across Europe and demand justice in the workplace.
The petition, along with more information about the campaign can be found here
Please sign and pass on to friends, family and colleagues.
Bullying can take many forms in the workplace, both physical and psychological. Bullying is an unwanted and abusive behaviour, where an individual or group of people create an intimidating or humiliating work environment for another individual or group of people. If it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual, then this is likely to be bullying.
To support anti-bullying week (14th-18th November), Greater Manchester Hazards Centre have published a printable document in order to help workers, Health and Safety Reps and Shop Stewards identify and prevent bullying.
It can be found here
Don't suffer in silence.
Report it, inform your shop steward and stamp it out.
This is Laura’s life: age 24; a Northerner; bar team leader for a large pub chain (and formerly a McDonald’s manager); zero hours contract; on a minimum wage; no savings in the bank; trainers donated to her by a friend; boss spied on the workers’ own secret Facebook group as they were organising a union.
“The main reason I joined the union is because I believe in collective action, all of us are better than one of us,” Laura explains.
Watch a video of Laura's story here
*Warning - some language may offend.
The BFAWU welcomes the commitment given by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell today in his Labour Party Conference speech, of a living wage of at least £10 an hour for all workers.
This would raise the living standards of millions of low paid workers in this country and would hopefully bring about an end to the shameless exploitation of people by certain companies, as a result of George Osborne’s ‘living wage’; a gimmick that offers security and improved life standards to precisely no-one.
A living wage of £10 an hour would be a life changing moment, that offers us an opportunity to build the fairer society that we all want to see. Traditionally, it's been Labour that is the true friend of of working people and we would certainly take the view that Mr McDonnell has re-confirmed that in this commitment.