At our recent Annual Conference in June this year, BFAWU delegates debated the current and future state of the Labour Party. The unanimous position of the Conference floor, was that since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader in September 2015, the Labour Party now represented and supported the aspirations of our members, working in the food industry. They also felt that the Labour Party was now fully in tune with the issues they face in the workplace, unlike during Ed Miliband’s leadership, where members felt that the party was way too apathetic and nothing more than ‘Tory-lite’. Jeremy Corbyn’s support for our £10 an hour campaign and his pledge to end the use of zero hours contracts, along with addressing the issue of heat in the workplace resonates very strongly with the people we represent. In addition, BFAWU members and representatives feel that the Labour Party’s performance in local, mayoral and parliamentary by-elections, along with substantially increasing it’s membership, forcing a number of governmental u-turns and winning the argument right across the piece in terms of opposing austerity, shows that the Party is heading in the right direction. All the more remarkable, considering the state of the Party after the bruising general election results of May 2015 and subsequent crisis of confidence.
The upshot of our Conference debate, was that delegates agreed; if there was any challenge to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, our Union would continue to support the current, democratically elected incumbent and the progressive policies he has put forward, that we believe match the hopes and aspirations of our members, and those who work in the food industry as a whole.
The attempted coup by the Parliamentary Labour Party and the resulting leadership challenge, all cheered on by the establishment media is based on nothing other than delusions, egos and vanity. It is helping no-one. At a time when the now Theresa May-led Conservatives are positioning themselves further to the right than even David Cameron’s government was, for the Labour Party to be spending it’s time and it’s members’ money laying itself bare in public and demonstrating such a blatant and brazen affront to democracy, is as worrying as it is saddening. A victory for Owen Smith’s challenge would only be a pyrrhic one, that would guarantee precisely nothing in terms of a general election win for Labour, nor will it help to address the real-world issues our members face, day in and day out.
These are the reasons why the BFAWU calls on all our members, supporters and affiliates eligible to take part in the leadership election, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. His track record speaks for itself.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The 6th Annual Wigan Diggers Festival will take place between 11.00am and 9.30pm on September 10th 2016 at Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend, Wigan.
The day itself will feature a historical digging re-enactment, over 50 food, book and other stalls, along with a beer tent, children's entertainment and live music.
For more information please click here
For the Facebook page, click here
The comments made by Owen Smith MP and claims he has made regarding a lack of campaigning on employment rights on the part of the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, are as untrue as they are absurd. Mr McDonnell has been a champion of workers' rights throughout his political career and his record is exemplary, especially when it comes to the workers that we represent in the food industry.
John has led the way; either by submitting Early Day Motions in Parliament, or by organising/co-ordinating meetings between MPs, workers and their Trade-Union representatives. In 2008, it was John who stood alongside those facing redundancy and uncertainty, as a result of the collapse of the Lyndale Food Group and fought their corner at Westminster. It was he, who demanded an inquiry into alleged prior collusion between the company and it’s appointed administrators, along with a demand for a change in the law relating to the conduct of company directors. This led to workers in the food industry being represented at Westminster via the creation of the BFAWU’s Parliamentary Group which again, John co-ordinated.
It was John, who assisted the BFAWU in terms of setting up our fast-food rights campaign, with it’s aim of ending inequality for young workers and to help bring about an end to the use of zero-hour contracts, in addition to demanding Trade Union recognition and a real living/minimum wage of £10 an hour. This campaign has resulted in many young workers in the UK fast-food industry being given a voice and a forum for the very first time.
John has also supported our campaigns in relation to heat in the workplace and the call for a temperature cap that would protect hundreds of thousands of people working in factories, bakeries, schools and numerous other sites all over the country. John also attends and addresses our Annual Conference most years, meets with delegates, listens to their concerns and identifies with their aspirations.
Since John became Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have seen him challenge the Conservatives, provide credible opposition and start to win the argument in terms of the government’s needless and damaging agenda of austerity for the poor and tax-breaks for the rich. All this, despite a pro-right wing mainstream media and unhelpful, uncomradely, rebellious, undemocratic and potentially destructive conduct from certain sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party including ironically, Owen Smith.
We completely refute the claims made by Mr Smith and ask him why it is, that he has never supported the campaign to end zero-hours contracts until his current Labour Party leadership campaign? We’d also like to ask him, seeing as he has now positioned himself as a 'man of the people' and 'champion' of the working classes, if he still believes that austerity is right? a claim that he made only a few weeks ago on the Andrew Marr show. Some might say that Mr Smith is making cynical attempts to wear Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes, in order to somehow win over sections of his support base. All we know here at the BFAWU, is that we have asked for, but never received so much as a scintilla of support from Mr Smith in relation to the hard-working and undervalued people that we represent. At the last general election, Smith (unlike Mr McDonnell) never campaigned for a minimum wage of £10 an hour and never campaigned (unlike Mr McDonnell) for the abolition of youth rates. He did however (unlike Mr McDonnell), abstain from the vote on the Conservatives’ vile welfare bill.
Although we welcome Mr Smith’s sudden embracing of worker-friendly policies and championing of their rights on an 'anti-austerity' platform; to publicly attack the architect is very poor form indeed.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The BFAWU is an affiliate of the Labour Party, which entitles our members who support the principles of the Labour Party a right to vote in the leadership election that has been called.
Whilst we feel that this leadership challenge is an unnecessary distraction, when we should be holding this awful Tory government to account and comes at a time that people in communities are looking to politicians for stability in these uncertain times, now the decision has been made, we encourage all our members to take part. At our recent Annual Conference, delegates re-affirmed their support of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and committed to working with him on building a fairer more equal society. Our Union has formerly nominated Jeremy, a man who has stood with working people and our members, and has actively supported all our campaigns. Now is our opportunity to stand with him.
This leadership election is about offering hope for all, not just for some. Jeremy Corbyn's leadership election victory last September provided a refreshing change in UK politics: an honest, decent politician whose life’s work has been to defend the rights of people and to stand up for justice. He is a man who puts the interests of all people at the heart of his leadership. This election is also about upholding the principles of democracy that people have fought and died for.
We ask all of our members who have not already done so, to register to vote. They can do so by going to https://support.labour.org.uk/ Please note that registration must be done by noon on the 8th of August in order to be entitled to a vote.
Ian Hodson (National President)
The current crisis within the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply regrettable and unnecessary. Last week’s vote to leave the European Union presents the entire labour movement with unprecedented challenges. Above all, we need to be fighting to preserve our members’ jobs, already under threat in several industries and across the public sector as a consequence. The government is in crisis, but already serious debates are taking place and decisions being made which profoundly affect the interests of working people.
Under these circumstances, our members and millions of others will be looking with dismay at the events in parliament. It cannot be right to seek to denude the Labour front bench at this time, when the government more than ever needs to be scrutinised and held to account by an effective and united opposition that does the job it is paid to do
Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically-elected Leader of our Party who secured such a resounding mandate less than ten months ago under an electoral procedure fully supported by Labour MPs. His position cannot and should not be challenged except through the proper democratic procedures provided for in the Party’s constitution. We urge all Labour MPs to abide by those procedures, and to respect the authority of the Party’s Leader.
While we have stated that we believe a Leadership election would be an unwelcome distraction at this time of crisis, if one nevertheless occurs through the proper procedures we would expect all parts of the Party to honour the result and pull together in the interests of the country, and working people in particular. The only party that can win for working people is a strong and united Labour Party.
Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB
Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU
Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT
Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA
Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF
Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU
Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU
Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM
Members and representatives of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union condemn the actions of a number of Labour MPs, who have chosen to start a civil war within their own party. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election victory nine months ago, certain MPs unable to accept democracy, have sought to de-stabilise the party and undermine Mr Corbyn’s vision time and again, often through Conservative Party supporting outlets, including the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
In the space of nine months, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has increased its membership massively, gaining support from all sections of society, including students, the elderly, the disabled and previously disillusioned Trade Unions. His effective opposition has forced the government into U-turn, after U-turn on issues directly affecting ordinary people and he has performed solidly in local elections, winning important by-elections and mayoral elections, often increasing Labour’s vote share. It’s also worth mentioning, that Mr Corbyn is the first ever political leader to have a majority of females on the front benches. This is despite having inherited a broken and de-moralised party after the damaging 2015 General Election. The truth is that as leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn has achieved more in nine months than his predecessor managed in five years.
The justification the rebel MPs are using for this attempted coup, is Mr Corbyn’s performance during the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. This is disingenuous to say the least. 63% of Labour Party supporters voted to remain in the EU, with 75% of Mr Corbyn’s own constituency voting to remain. If Labour wished to scapegoat anyone, surely it would have been members of the party’s pro-EU campaign management team, which included the likes of Alan Johnson and ironically, Hilary Benn. The reality, is that this cabal of mainly Blairite MPs have been planning this for a long time and given the timing, it begs the questions; how much of this is about the imminent arrival of the Chilcot report and who may, or may not come out of it badly? How much of this is to provide distraction? Is it just a coincidence that many of the people who are calling for votes of no confidence in Mr Corbyn are notorious supporters of Tony Blair, who voted for the illegal war in Iraq? It certainly seems bizarre, that given the fact that the Conservatives are going into meltdown and the country is crying out for unity, that these people should decide that now is the time for a civil war within the Labour Party.
The crisis currently engulfing the country is one that originated within the Conservative Party. David Cameron gambled with the welfare of the country during the 2015 General Election by making the promise of an EU referendum a key part of his election manifesto, in order to prevent losing votes to UKIP, placate Tory back-benchers and to ultimately protect his own political position. However, rather than expose the Conservative Party and address the real issues now affecting the country, the media and the usual suspects within the establishment have decided to make Jeremy Corbyn the sacrificial lamb, for no other reason than that they see him as a threat to the status quo; in other words, a political leader who cannot be bought.
The BFAWU and its members are at a loss to understand the stupidity of these MPs. On Sunday, June 27th 2016, members and activists of our Union were gathering outside the head office building of Samworth Brothers to support Kumaran Bose; a worker sacked for exposing the injustices workers are experiencing in his factory. While we were out fighting for fair play and equality, well paid Labour MPs were acting like drones for those who created the ‘Brexit’ mess by knifing their leader in the back, crowing about it on social media and prostituting themselves to current affairs TV and radio programmes, in order to twist the knife further. This just adds insult to injury. That a number of Labour MPs seek to create division in such a treacherous manner and make it their priority, whilst our members face attacks on their terms and conditions, agency labour exploitation and zero hours contracts is beyond the pale. It makes you wonder what kind of Labour Party we’d be looking at, if the rogues’ gallery of Margaret Hodge, Hilary Benn, Ian Austin, Wes Streeting, Lucy Powell, Chris Bryant and all the other traitors of democracy somehow managed to seize power of the Labour Party.
The last two General Elections and the EU referendum showed that people in this country are fed up with Westminster and fed up of the politics of the past, including Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’. People up and down the country are angry, hurting and are crying out for change. For the first time since 1945, there is an opportunity to rebuild our country with a leader that offers a future for all and a society that we can all be a part of. That's what Jeremy Corbyn offers and that's why we, as the BFAWU will continue to support him, his values and his vision.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
Like the majority of people up and the country, the Bakers', Food and Allied Workers Union were shocked and saddened at the murder of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, a 41 year old wife and mother, so viciously cut down only a year or so into a parliamentary career that promised great things.
As many have already pointed out, Jo Cox was a long standing campaigner and fighter for human rights and social justice who in many ways, represented what the Labour Party should be all about. She was a local lass who decided to follow the vocational path of representing people within her community. Indeed, her constituency includes a good number of BFAWU members who will be dismayed by this tragedy.
Whilst there are many among the political classes with whom we strongly disagree and oppose at times, there is never any justification for murder, or violence within our democracy. By the same token, we must ask how a human mind could have become so deluded as to think that killing someone in this fashion was somehow a right and just thing to do.
The BFAWU sends its deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends that Jo Cox leaves behind.
It turns out that the great Thatcher-Reagan promise about privatisation, free trade and the unrestrained market of a great share-owning democracy has been a costly experiment that has failed the many. Here in the UK, Thatcher promised a revolution where privatised utilities would mean lower bills, driven by competition. The lie that she rolled out was that as the industry wouldn’t need to be subsidised, it would mean lower taxes. This privatisation would lead to a prosperous country and a wealthy society for all. We would all get richer and better still, would get to keep more of our hard-earned cash. Of course the reality was completely different. Private companies have a legal obligation to their shareholders, not consumers so profit becomes the priority. Normally, this means cutting corners, cutting jobs and under-investing, whilst boosting the pay of the CEO.
While tax has fallen sharply for the richest, the tax take on the rest of us has largely stayed the same and privatised companies are pretty much unaccountable. Statistics show that since privatisation, gas prices have increased by 130%. The ten years before privatisation had shown prices increasing by just over 20%. The promise of lower bills was nothing more than an outright lie. If you look at the traditional five evils – want, squalor, idleness, ignorance and disease, in 21st century Britain you would now have to consider adding fuel poverty to those evils. Large swathes of people living in the UK now spend in excess of 10% of their income on keeping themselves warm. Statistics show that one in four households are defined as being in fuel poverty. Indeed, many people are faced with the daily dilemma of having to choose between keeping warm and eating, with the elderly being particularly at risk. It’s a clear and damning indictment that deregulation and privatisation has failed those who live in these Isles.
As for having more money in your pocket, the big six energy companies increased their prices by 37% between October 2010 and 2013. This rise is three times the rate of inflation for the same period, which was been around 10.2%. During that time, average earnings rose by 4.4%, so you don’t really have to be a mathematician in order to realise just how much people have been shafted by Thatcher’s privatisation of energy.
The problem is quite simple; the dynamics of today's electricity and gas markets do not create companies or business strategies in which public interest, objectives and social obligations are sufficiently prioritised. Instead, every dysfunction is passed on to consumers through their bills, which have now become the most regressive element in disposable household incomes. Today, people are starting to regard energy costs much like Thatcher's poll tax. It comes as no surprise that recent polls suggest 68% of Brits would like to see the renationalisation of energy.
In terms of the promise of lower taxes due to no longer subsidising the industry, it now requires long-term price guarantees for investment in renewables and nuclear without any comparable quid pro quo in lowering its target cost of capital. The National Grid, similarly privately owned, balances its profit maximising aims with a need to ensure security of supply. This means that the cost of every ambitious commitment to decarbonise British energy supply by 2030, is passed on to the consumer.
As part of its renewable strategy, the government has signed a long-term contract for nuclear power to be supplied at twice the current price of electricity. If there’s one thing that David Cameron’s government have excelled at, it’s been the ability to sniff out a bad deal. His lack of real concern, his greed and incompetence have led to the UK being locked into this deal for the next 35 years. We deserve better than this.
New research by Corporate Watch in collaboration with We Own It has found:
- Households across the UK could save £250 each on their electricity, gas and water bills and train fares if the services were publicly financed.
- Private electricity, gas, water and rail companies pay out £12bn a year to investors and shareholders in interest and dividends. In total, cheaper government borrowing rates could save the UK public £6.5bn: £4.2bn on energy, £2bn on water and £352m on rail.
- Years of inflation-busting price hikes by energy companies have increased the average profit per household more than ten-fold, leaving large numbers of people struggling and in millions of cases, failing to heat their homes adequately. Returning the energy sector to state ownership would provide some comfort for those people, not to mention a sense of empowerment as the tables could be turned on this culture of corporate greed that has only served to cheapen life in this country.
Britain needs a new and better deal, so the question is should we renationalise the big 6 or explore other ways?
What about the case for nationalisation?
According to Dr Robert Gross, Director of the Centre of Energy and Technology at Imperial College, London, the government could prevent any excess profits, while borrowing money to invest in the system could become cheaper. The government would be able to borrow money more cheaply than the big six, because it has a much stronger credit rating and because its monopoly status would make it more financially secure, therefore more likely to repay its debts. It would also not have to pay a large portion of its profits out to shareholders in the form of dividends.
“The newly created energy company could plan the system more effectively and potentially take strategic decisions for the good of the country,” Dr Gross says – a point that couldn’t be made for the four members of the big six that are foreign-owned. A focus on what was good for the country, rather than the big six’s profits and shareholders would make it easier to drive through policy goals such as ‘greening’ Britain’s electricity supply, and could bring bills down, added Dr Gross, who nonetheless describes himself as being agnostic about energy nationalisation overall, despite its potential benefits.
There is a strong argument that taking energy back into public ownership and control is vital to ensure businesses can be supplied affordable energy and thousands of customers do not die from the effects of fuel poverty. However, questions would be asked about the cost of renationalising the big 6. Maybe we need to consider that new power stations be publicly owned, whilst we encourage individuals or communities to set up smaller privately-owned generators, a process that would see energy generation largely returned to state ownership gradually over a period of two decades or so, as the main existing power stations reached the end of their lives.
I’m driven to the opinion that our main thrust should be to develop de-centralised energy that is community owned - so that effectively we make the big six redundant by building up a new ecology of community, locally and regionally owned energy, funded by strategic public investment. This is a slightly more radical version of the German model, which has seen a huge transfer from big corporate energy to local and community generation and ownership. Germans can switch power providers. In fact, they are not only free as power consumers, but also free to become “prosumers” – simultaneously producers and consumers. They can even sell the power they make at a profit. Germany’s Renewable Energy Act stipulates that the little guy’s power has priority over corporations. German feed-in tariffs have helped produce all of this community ownership, thereby simultaneously reducing ‘NIMBYism’ and increasing acceptance levels for renewables.
In most countries, the energy sector has long been in the hands of large corporations because electricity came from large central power stations. Renewables offer an opportunity, however, to switch to a large number of smaller generators, and this distributed approach offers an opportunity for citizens and communities to get involved. Germany has an unusually high level of citizen involvement in the ‘Energiewende’.
Either way, the current situation is unacceptable, not to mention unsustainable. We are an often windy island, surrounded by wave power. We even sometimes get a bit of sun. There is also the potential for countless jobs in renewable energy. We cannot continue to allow the cartel of energy companies to run roughshod over consumers and businesses and the archaic obsession with fossil fuels and digging into the earth is based on nothing other than the greed of a select few. There is a need to change the narrative and literally take back power. Now is the time to start.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
Following on from BFAWU concerns prior to the introduction of the 'living wage', and how certain employers would seek to dodge their moral responsibilities, Channel 4 News recently broadcast an expose of companies who were exploiting the pay 'rise' by reducing the terms and conditions of their employees. For many, this has involved attempts at introducing consolidated rates of pay and removing both shift premium and overtime bonuses.
In the broadcast item, Channel 4 named Samworth Brothers (who own the likes of Soreen malt loaf among other well known food brands) as a particular offender. Since then, the issue of how companies are implementing the living wage has been debated in Parliament with Samworth Brothers once again being named and shamed.
A clip of the debate can be found here
Please see below statement from the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) in relation to the Fast-Food Rights Campaign and the Labour NEC’s decision to refuse McDonald’s a stall at Conference.
McDonald’s are coming under significant pressure. The UK’s Fast Food Rights Campaign, led by the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), has been protesting outside McDonald’s restaurants and organising fast-food workers for over two years, calling for zero-hours contracts to be scrapped, a minimum wage of £10 an hour and Trade Union rights.
We congratulate the Labour Party NEC on the decision to refuse McDonald’s a stall at their Conference and our members at McDonald’s both agree with and support this decision. The Labour Party was founded by, and is still part-funded by Trade Unions and Unions and MPs right across the Labour Movement support the Fast-Food Rights Campaign. It would be nonsensical not to mention, hypocritical if the party gave stall and advertising space to a company as blatantly anti-Trade Union as McDonald’s; an organisation which utilises deplorable employment practices such as zero hours contracts, and who as it now turns out, are pretty good at avoiding paying their taxes. This isn’t a case of Labour turning up it’s nose at fast-food, or the countless people that eat at McDonald’s; this is about the principle of supporting workers and their right to be paid properly and treated with dignity. This is exactly what Labour stands for, and they should be applauded for taking this stance.
The pressure is now starting to tell, as we now see McDonald’s’ taking the decision to offer all staff contracts of 4, 16 or 30 hours a week. This hasn’t come about simply because the company has had a change of heart. The truth is that significant protest has had an impact. We will continue to fight for a £10 an hour minimum wage for all and union rights. We say to McDonald’s: if you can re-brand so much in your stores, from store layout to children’s meals, then surely you can adapt your business model, with the mega profits generated by your workforce, to recognise your workers’ Union and meet with the BFAWU now.
For more information, please contact the BFAWU’s National President, Ian Hodson on 07739326010 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org