David Cameron claims that he wants a high wage, low tax economy. If that’s the case, he has a funny way of showing it. Over the last five years, he has overseen exploitation and a devaluing of labour on an industrial scale, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Victorian times. Don’t just take my word for it; look at the jobs websites for proof. Zero hours contracts, workfare, part-time roles, temporary contracts and apprenticeships offering full-time responsibilities and duties for as little as £2.60 per hour. These working arrangements used to be the exceptions; now they are the norm and this brazen, shameless race to the bottom ideology has spread throughout the labour market like a cancer. If this wasn’t enough, Cameron’s government wants to further punish those on poverty wages by cutting the benefits that they have to claim as a result of the poor pay they receive, all hammered home by the sneering Work and Pensions sociopath, Iain Duncan Smith; a man who has already contributed to a number of people being driven to commit suicide.
The BFAWU believes that workers shouldn't have to rely on benefits. They should be able to plan their lives without constant form filling, in order to prove that they are living in poverty. Cameron could make good on his constant spin by announcing the move from a minimum wage, to a living wage of at least £10 per hour. This would remove the need for people to claim in-work benefits, give the economy a good shot in the arm and show him making good on his up to now laughable claims that the Conservatives are ‘the party of working people’. The reality is that you’re more likely to find a swan and unicorn pasty in your local Greggs shop than see the attitude of Cameron’s government be anything other than sly and vindictive when it comes to people on low incomes.
David Cameron favours the idea of a regional minimum wage. This basically means lower, or higher wages for doing the same work, depending on where you live; a kind of postcode lottery for pay if you like. We need to be extremely cautious over the Scottish National Party’s demand for devolving powers surrounding the minimum wage. This move would bring about an end to the national minimum wage. The break up of a UK wide national minimum wage could see England and Wales which, as we know has an in-built Tory majority, scuppering any attempt to increase it, driving wages down not up with Scottish MPs barred from taking part in debates or votes which don’t affect Scotland. The SNP could actually find themselves enabling David Cameron's nightmarish vision of lower pay in some regions, particularly northern (probably Labour-run) constituencies and in the SouthWest where some health trusts tried to break away from national pay bargaining during the last 5 years. Regional pay would weaken the BFAWU’s ‘Hungry For Justice’ campaign, which is calling for no worker in the UK to be paid less than £10 an hour.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
On the 16th June 2015, the organisation ‘From Pink to Prevention’ sent an open letter to ‘Breakthrough Breast Cancer’ (recently changed to ‘Breast Cancer Now’); the UK’s largest breast cancer research charity, asking them to review their current literature and acknowledge the environmental and occupational links to breast cancer. Currently these issues are seriously downplayed with no mention at all of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and the carcinogenic role they play.
‘Endocrine Disruptors’ are chemicals that interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife by interfering with hormone actions. What’s worrying though, is that these disruptors are found in so many everyday products – plastic bottles, metal food cans, toys, food, make up and cosmetics, detergents and pesticides.
The World Health Organisation and United Nations Environment Programme both say that EDCs are a threat to health and the environment globally, and need to be resolved sooner rather than later. So what can we do to help?
- Visit the From Pink to Prevention website www.frompinktoprevention.org
- Demand safer alternatives and full disclosure on substances and chemicals both at home, and at work.
- Pay attention to what you buy – avoid PVC and polycarbonates marked with a triangle with a 3 or a 6 in the middle.
- Be your own workplace detective and identify processes and practices of concern and the use of substances and chemicals in your workplace.
These are just four things you can do. There are plenty more on the website, but by visiting it, spreading the word and holding the government, manufacturers, companies and cancer research charities to account for their rather worrying lack of action and acknowledgement of EDCs, we can help stop breast cancer before it starts, rather than concentrating solely on treating it once we have it.
Sarah Woolley (Shop Steward, Greggs Branch 580/Executive Council Member)
First time Annual Conference delegates played a big part this year, especially with BFAWU campaigns surrounding zero hours contracts and rights for workers in the fast-food industry. Lorna and Toni, two members from Branch 500 made a significant impact at Conference with their stories of the conditions that they work in and the attitude of their employers.
Lorna has provided an extensive report of her Conference experience which also offers an insight into her own life as a minimum wage/zero hours worker.
It's well worth a read and can be found by clicking here
Press Release re: Strike Action at Gunstones Bakery, Sheffield
The BFAWU strike at Gunstones (Sheffield) taking place from June 15th 2015 was called following the company’s decision to force through a pay freeze on staff at the site.
BFAWU members and officials had initially agreed with the company to keep any pay negotiations in abeyance due to over four-hundred redundancies being made. However, the company refused to offer staff an increase following the redundancy consultation period, citing the overall cost of the redundancies as a reason for non-movement on pay.
BFAWU members at the site subsequently balloted for industrial action, but gave the company a window of six weeks in order to negotiate further. Five days before the strike was due to take place, Union members at Gunstones met and made a proposal to the company that involved a pay increase of 4% over two years with no back pay.
The company refused this proposal and made it clear to BFAWU members and officials that any movement on pay would have to be ‘self-financing’, meaning that employees at the site may have to sacrifice existing terms and conditions in order to secure any increase. The BFAWU sees this as unacceptable and hopes that the company can review its position to avoid potential bitterness, resentment and the possibility of further action at the site.
For more information, please contact John Higgins Tel: 07739326012; email email@example.com
This year's BFAWU Annual Conference featured some great debates and a plethora of fantastic guest speeches, many of which have been captured for posterity.
For Arthur Scargill's superb address to delegates, click here
For TV and film star, Ricky Tomlinson's return to Conference to speak about the 'Shrewsbury 24' campaign, click here
To watch PCS General Secretary, Mark Serwotka in action, click here
To watch the newly elected MP for Leeds East and member of the BFAWU, Richard Burgon, click here
For staunch BFAWU supporter and MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell's speech, click here
To watch the address made by Sri Lankan workers' rights activist group, 'Tamil Solidarity', click here
For BFAWU General Secretary, Ronnie Draper's opening address to Conference, click here
Thanks to all who took part and thanks also to Ronnie Irwin for the video footage. Visit the Irwin Video website:
May 15th 2015
CREDIT UNION Update
The BFAWU Credit Union was the first ‘national’ Credit Union set up in 1997 with the ‘common bond’ being membership of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union. The aim was-and remains- to assist members in financial problems, to encourage savings and to keep members out of the hand of money lenders. Thousands of BFAWU members and their families have benefited from this facility. Why not become one of a growing number of Union members that use this benefit?
The Credit Union’s aim also was to assist members in short term financial problems that ordinary Banks would not help as the loans being sort were of small amounts and short term -no money in that for Bankers. Again thousands of your fellow Union members have reaped the benefit from this facility.
Credit Union members save and borrow for many reasons. It may be for that family holiday; for that emergency purchase; for a wedding or funeral expenses and many more. Savings are made at regular-weekly or monthly- periods as are repayments on loans. And, unlike Banks, interest is paid on the reducing repayment figure not on the whole capital borrowed.
So how are we doing? The Table below sets out our record in 2014 and in the first quarter of this year:
Total of 464 Loans in 2014 totalled £526,190.00
Approved loans 149 January to April in 2015 totalled £184,319.00 so far.
The Credit Union is a major benefit for Union members and their families as the table above shows. Savings are protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, covering up to £85,000 of savings for each member.
Now is a good time to join the Credit Union and applications are welcome. Why struggle to make ends meet by falling into the hands of loan sharks or by paying high interest rate returns. Why look to discredited Banks for assistance for that one off purchase or holiday? Here are Union members saving and lending to each other. That is what trade unionism is all about. So come and join us. Application forms are available from the Credit Union Head Office, Stanborough House, Great North Road, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire AL8 7YA
Pauline Nazir, Secretary Joe Marino, Chair.
JOIN YOUR CREDIT UNION TODAY
NOTICE-THE CREDIT UNION AGM WILL BE HELD IN THE CONFERENCE HALL, SOUTHPORT ON THE 8 JUNE AT 12.30PM. ALL MEMBERS, AND POTENTIAL MEMBERS INVITED.
Since 2010, Trade Unions, Safety Representatives and workers in general have had to battle against not only deteriorating safety conditions at work, but the Tory-led government and it's media's attempts to further undermine safety by using extremely unhelpful rhetoric and anecdotal-based fantasy.
Long-standing legislation, designed to protect lives has been labeled as 'pointless red tape' and 'bureaucratic nonsense' by government ministers, whilst newspapers spew out stories of conkers being banned from playgrounds, village fetes being cancelled because of over-sized prize marrows and childish tales of 'elf and safety gone mad'. All this has been used to erode workplace safety rights and leave the welfare of workers in the hands of often unscrupulous employers who will, for the most part happily put profit before lives. People working in construction, down mines and in factories know the difference between effective health and safety at work and fear of litigation, claim culture and rising insurance premiums masquerading as health and safety. It's high time that our politicians made the distinction, rather than use people's lives as a political football.
On May 7th, the UK could well have a new government in place. Therefore, it's vital that the people we elect are prepared to fight to safeguard our rights at work and support some reasonable aims and demands.
The 'Hazards Campaign' are promoting a 13-point plan of action to stop workers paying the heavy price of poor health and safety and we ask that our safety representatives within the BFAWU and the wider Labour Movement get on board, sign up to it and promote it, whilst ensuring that the politicians who rely on our votes are prepared to do the same. The welfare of future generations of workers are depending on us to fight and protect the hard-fought safety rights secured by previous generations of Trade Unionists over the years. It's time to use our collective voices, or lose those rights forever.
The 'Hazards' article can be found here
How worried should we be by the government announcing an increase in the minimum wage by the princely, recession-busting sum of 20p? Lib-Dem Business Secretary, Vince Cable claimed that it would be too dangerous to go any higher and would risk creating unemployment yet in January, when the government’s propaganda machine set about creating a false ‘feel-good factor’ for us all, their sycophants in the press rolled out the mantra that the economy was now fixed and we were all better off. Indeed, on Thursday, Jan 16th, the Chancellor, George Osborne announced that the growth in the economy meant Britain could now afford a substantial increase in the minimum wage. In a bid to outflank Ed Miliband, the Tory dominated media had already reported that Osborne had thrown his weight behind a proposal that would raise the minimum wage from £6.31 to £7 an hour from October 2014; seven months before the general election. The move, which followed a lengthy debate in Conservative circles led by Osborne stooges Matt Hancock and Jo Johnson finally manifested itself in the government's submission to the Low Pay Commission.
So does today's March 17th decision signal the weakness of the British economy or the flakiness and spin at the heart of the Tory party? Clearly, the so-called green shoots of the ‘recovery’ are difficult to find for most people, with only those at the top benefiting as per usual; the richest by as much as 64%. In short, the Tories have managed to deliver for their donors tenfold, whilst handing out austerity for everybody else, underpinned by a culture of hate, division, fear and uncertainty. We now know that the Tories have even more spending cuts planned, which will involve ripping another £70 billion out of the public sector. This will mean cuts to schools and the eventual privatisation of our NHS, as it simply won’t be able to survive with the level of cuts that they intend to put in place. It’s a clear strategy, designed to push us towards an American-style, insurance based system. For proof, you only need to look at the list of Conservative MPs with links to private health companies and the number of NHS contracts being issued to them.
The Tories have prioritised tax cuts for the richest, whilst trying to convince the rest of us that this will lead to a steady, bounteous, downward trickle of the riches, wine and roses. However, anyone with any sense knows that whilst the wealthiest in society will continue to fire the champagne corks at the sun and clink their flutes, those at the bottom end of the pay-scale will be lucky to get a few drops of the spit-back. Soon, the rich and powerful will be guarding their homes with state of the art, modern private security, whilst ordinary people will be forced to live in fear as police numbers are cut to their lowest ever levels as a consequence of the Tory agenda. It’s all the more ironic when you consider the relationship between Thatcher’s government and its vindictive, paranoid, payslip waving thugs-in-blue during the 1980s.
The question is why the government could afford a minimum wage of £7 an hour only two months ago, but can only stretch to a 20p increase now? David Cameron even had the gall to prance around the country in true Frances O’ Grady style, proclaiming that ‘Britain needed a pay rise’. I wonder how his chums in the city would react to a 20p increase? The crux of the matter is that the whole thing is pure spin of the most patronising and condescending fashion; probably written by Michael Green (or is that Sebastian Fox?) before he became an MP and changed his name to Grant Shapps.
Despite all this negativity, there is a ray of sunshine. On April 15th, low paid workers in the fast-food industry will be taking action across the world, demanding an end to poverty pay and the right to Trade Union recognition. It’s a movement of collectivism and common belief that has been steadily growing over the last twelve months or so, and that has already brought about some significant change and a major call for fair play and fair pay that is beginning to make the mainstream in this country. We believe that if MPs really want to represent their constituents properly, they should be screaming out demands for an increase in the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour. At the end of the day, they want our vote; let them earn it.
A short animation including some researched facts can be found here: http://fastfoodright-bakersunion.nationbuilder.com
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
In recent years, despite the so-called need for austerity, we have seen the wealth of those at the top triple, whilst wages have declined for the majority of those on low to middle incomes.Read more