John McDonnell’s Letter To The Guardian Re: RMT Ballot

The media treatment of RMT and Bob Crow over the last 48 hours over the Network Rail strike ballot has been the worst example of a concerted campaign of media bias against a trade union that we have seen since the 1980s miners’ strike. John Humphrys’s interview of Bob Crow, with his references to ballot-rigging, and the BBC’s subsequent headline of “RMT’s Bob Crow denies ballot rigging”, was that disgusting classic of the old hack lawyer’s tactic of asking the defendant: “When did you stop beating your wife?”

Even the Guardian’s editorial (2 March) ignorantly weighed in with “No union that conducts its ballots properly according to the reasonable requirements of the law … would be in danger of being injuncted.” This reference to “reasonable requirements of the law” is patent rubbish. To hold a ballot the union must construct and supply the employer with a detailed and complex matrix of information setting out which members it is balloting, their job titles, grades, departments and work locations. The employer is under no obligation to co-operate with the union to ensure this is accurate. If there is the slightest inaccuracy, even where it did not affect the result, the ballot is open to being challenged by the employer and quashed by the courts.

There can be no question of the union ballot-rigging or interfering in the balloting process because it is undertaken by an independent scrutineer, usually the Electoral Reform Society, and all ballot papers are sent by post to the homes of the members being balloted, and returned to the ERS for counting. The union at no time handles the ballot papers.

On at least four occasions in the last three years I have tried in parliament on behalf of RMT and other TUC-affiliated unions to amend employment law to require employers to co-operate with unions in the balloting process so these problems can be overcome. Employers’ organisations, the Conservatives and the government have all opposed this reform.

The result is not fewer strikes but a deteriorating industrial relations climate as people become increasingly angry that their democratic wishes are frustrated by one-sided anti-trade-union laws.

John McDonnell MP

Also see SU

Posted in Human Rights, Labour rights, Media. Tags: , . Comments Off on John McDonnell’s Letter To The Guardian Re: RMT Ballot

CWU Picket Lines For Thursday

Listed here (ht2 Harpy).

Vestas Needs You!

An eviction notice has been served on the occupation at Vestas IoW. The eviction is due to take place tomorrow, Friday 7 August, at 12 noon.

Please get to the Island if you can. The workers want support tomorrow. There is a minibus leaving London tonight. Email us if you want to be on it and we will forward your number to the driver. If anyone else can drive or offer transport, please let us know. We can post details on the blog or put you in touch with people seeking transport.

If you can’t go, please organise a protest in your town or join one of those already planned. Protests we know about are
– tonight, 6pm outside Department of Energy and Climate Change, 3 Whitehall Place, London
– tonight Bristol: demonstrate 5.30pm Bristol fountain
– tonight Manchester/ tomorrow Warrington: demonstrate 5pm in Piccadilly Gardens and protest at 8am tomorrow morning at Vestas HQ in Warrington, tel Hugh 07769 611320

Let us know if you are organising something and we can advertise it.

Please contact Climate Change and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband now. ps.ed.miliband@decc.gsi.gov.uk and tell him to step in to save wind turbine blade production at Vestas, IoW, for the sake of renewable energy, green jobs and his credibility as a politician. His phone number in his Doncaster constituency is 01302 875 462, and at Westminster, 020 7219 4778. And on Twitter http://twitter.com/edmilibandMP

More @ savevestas.wordpress.com

Posted in Environment, Labour rights. Tags: . Comments Off on Vestas Needs You!

Save Vestas

Posted in Earth, Labour rights. Tags: . Comments Off on Save Vestas

Vestas!!! Stand For Their Jobs & Earth

As many others are reporting the UK’s only wind turbine factory was going to close, yep that’s right even as NL release their Green strategy they were allowing the only place that makes wind turbines to be closed by profit before all else capitalists. So the workers on the Isle of Wight (really!) have done the right thing and occupied the factory!

Send messages of support to:Savevestas@googlemail.com

The Vestas Fighting Fund: Cheques Payable to ‘Ryde and East Wight Trades Union’

Send Cheques to:
22 Church Lane
Ryde
Isle of Wight
PO33 2NB

And via Harpymarx

Martin Empson via Derek Wall:- Save Vestas – Defend Jobs, Save the Planet – Support the Occupation

Workers at the Vestas Wind Turbine factory on the Isle of Wight have JUST NOW occupied their factory. They are fighting for 600 jobs and the future of the planet. They need help now.

PLEASE TEXT AND CALL EVERYONE YOU KNOW.

There is a large picket of support starting outside the factory. This will be crucial in giving people confidence inside. We want hundreds of people by morning.
If you are not working, come now, by car, bus or train.
If you are on the South Coast and working, come for the night and go to work exhausted and proud.

If you can’t come, call up friends and offer to pay the fare or petrol money for someone else to come down. Or part of the fare.
Don’t just call the environmental and union activists you know. Call your friends and ask them who they know. Call your brother’s friends or your children’s friends. Text everyone. Get your friends calling and texting.

WE WANT HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE NOW.
SAVE THE JOBS – SAVE THE PLANET.

The workers want Gordon Brown to step in as if it was a troubled bank and save the jobs and keep making wind turbine blades. They gave the bankers trillions. They say they care about climate change. He has talked about creating 40,000 “Green Jobs”, the first step should be protecting these 600.

The workers will need solidarity – donations of money, food and other assistance. In the first instance please send messages of solidarity to savevestas@gmail.com

We will suggest other forms of solidarity soon. Do this now. Reach for your phone


Want Something To Do Tuesday Afternoon In London Town?

EMERGENCY PICKET AGAINST COUP IN HONDURAS! TUESDAY 30 JUNE, 5PM, HONDURAS EMBASSY, 115 GLOUCESTER PLACE1) EMERGENCY PICKET AGAINST COUP IN HONDURAS! – PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELYTuesday 30 June, 5pmat the Honduras Embassy, 115 Gloucester Place, London, W1U 6JT.An emergency picket has been called outside the Honduran Embassy in response to yesterday’s coup against Honduras’ progressive elected president (see VSC statement and further information below.) Please come and show your support for social progress and democracy in Latin America.· For more information contact info@venezuelasolidarity.co.uk. Called by Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (formerly VIC), and supported by Unite London and Eastern Region.

And/or-

Lobby the Home Office, Tuesday 30th June, 5.30-6.30pm
2 marsham st, millbank, Sw1

Staff and students at SOAS are calling for Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for the Home Office, to grant leave to remain with permission to work for Marina Silva and Rosa dePerez, two of the SOAS cleaners picked up in a brutal immigration raid on 12th June. Marina, who is 63 and has applied for asylum, following het brutal honour killing of her husband and threats to her own life, and Rosa, who has four children to support in Nicaragua, remain in detention following the raid. Their colleagues, including six months pregnant Luzia, were deported within 48 hours of the raid.

Cleaners at SOAS had demanded and organised for dignity at work with many joining a union. They had succeeded in winning union recognition from the privatised cleaning firm ISS and raising their pay to the London Living Wage—higher than other colleges in the area. It is of grave concern that the raid, organised by ISS, took place shortly after this campaign and on the very day on which UNISON was due to protest in support of an activist who had played a leading role in organising the cleaners at SOAS.

Please support our campaign:

Lobby the Home Office, Tuesday 30th June, 5.30-6.30pm
2 marsham st, millbank, Sw1

Bring banners and props.

Sign the letter requesting leave to remain is granted to Marina and Rosa
http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com/2009/06/send-this-letter-to-home-office-now.html

For more information go to: http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com/

Stop the Deportation of SOAS University Cleaners!

Supported by SOAS SU, UNISON and UCU

Posted in Labour rights. Tags: . Comments Off on Want Something To Do Tuesday Afternoon In London Town?

SOAS 9 Cleaners

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Uribe Family Values

Colombian prosecutors have ordered the arrest of the president’s cousin on suspicion of ties to paramilitary death squads. Mario Uribe, who is a close adviser to Alvaro Uribe, the president, is accused of conspiring to promote illegal armed groups. Mario Uribe’s lawyer said on Tuesday his client had asked for asylum at the Costa Rican embassy in the Colombian capital in response to the charges.

More than 60 politicians, many from political parties allied to the president, are under investigation for suspected ties to armed groups. At least 32 of those are in jail while prosecutors examine their ties to the militias.

The paramilitaries were initially formed in the 1980s to protect the wealthy from kidnapping and extortion attempts by left-wing rebels, but are believed to have carried out similar activities themselves. The groups killed thousands of alleged rebel supporters and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes before demobilising in an agreement with Alvaro Uribe’s government. Some jailed paramilitary leaders, including Mancuso, complain their former political allies have unfairly escaped punishment.

This is the regime both Bush and NuLabour support (Howells! and the deaths he may have caused) not to mention idiot bad bass player Alex James. Uribe’s Rise. Now if they are beginning to chip away at his family, Uribe’s fall? Will all his friends stand by him as his cartel hijinks come home to roost? So far his staunch right wing politics have meant his terrorism was never lumped into the war on terror, trade unionists being fair game to the neo-cons 550 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia over the past six years by the army and paramilitary death squads that work with them.

Bush pushes further plan Colombia alliances after all the empire is running out of puppets. Hmmm…just how many spare rooms does the Costa Rican embassy have?

Ineos Pension Raids Foreshadow Scottish Fuel Crisis

So, Ineos-

INEOS is a young company. It has grown through a series of related acquisitions to become the world’s third largest chemical company with sales today approaching $45 billion.

Most of our employees have spent all their working lives in the chemical or oil industry. They arrived at INEOS from companies such as BASF, Bayer, Borealis, BP, Degussa, Dow, Enichem, Hoechst, ICI, Norsk Hydro, Unilever, and Solvay.

In the UK 2006-

Sales of £18.134 Billion, Profit of £630 Million (source Ineos declaration to Sunday Times KPMG Profit Track 100) year end 2006.

What it is doing at Grangemouth (Grangemouth-home of Lowlife!!!!!) refinery-

BBC:- Phil McNulty, national officer of Unite, insisted that the company was profitable and the pension scheme was well-funded and affordable. The union has previously said that Ineos is planning to close the final salary pension scheme after taking £40m from it and slashing its own contributions. Mr McNulty added: “The changes to the scheme Ineos are proposing are unreasonable, unnecessary and have forced our members at Grangemouth to take industrial action for the first time.”

First strike at an oil refinery for 73 years to go ahead– “The company is profitable, and the pension scheme in its present form is well funded and affordable. The changes to the scheme Ineos are proposing are unreasonable, unnecessary and have forced our members at Grangemouth to take industrial action for the first time. An agreement has been reached between the union and the company on the safe and orderly shut down of the plant. Previous claims by Ineos that Unite had not given adequate consideration to safety are untrue and deeply upsetting for our members and the local community.”

Thanks for the ‘insisted” BBC, such neutral dry journalistic language that, gee with a some googling I found out how profitable it was so no need to act as if there is some contention over that, the corporation itself declares it is profitable (unless it’s all porkie pies and they are on their uppers, hmm let me see, record oil prices, I think they might be making a few quid)! The Ineos Refining plant in Grangemouth (from Ineo’s own literature PDF here)-

INEOS Refining is Europe’s leading independent crude oil refiner. With two particularly advantaged refineries it processes more than 410,000 barrels of crude oil per day, to produce in the region of 20 million Tonnes of fuels per annum. Refineries are strategically located at Grangemouth Scotland and Lavéra France and are both fully integrated with co-sited petro-chemical assets of the company. Close proximity to feedstocks and customers are key elements of the business’ strength. Grangemouth is directly connected to the Forties oil field system in the North Sea and also imports other crudes from around the world via its deep sea terminal on the west coast of Scotland.

• Turnover $10 bn
• Personnel 1,000
• Pedigree BP and Innovene
• Volume 410,000 barrels per day of crude distillation capacity, processing 150 million
barrels of oil to produce 20 million tons of fuel per annum
• Logistics Lavéra: located on the coast of the Mediterranean crude oil trading basin, next to the port of Marseille and adjacent crude oil terminal. Linked by
pipeline to the hinterland of France, Switzerland and Southern Germany and
benefiting from efficient road, rail and sea facilities
Grangemouth: located on the Firth of Forth benefits by having direct access
to crude oil and gas from the North Sea via the Forties Pipeline System
(FPS), with additional crude oil import capability and fuel export facility at
the Finnart Ocean Terminal on the west coast of Scotland. Finished products
exported by pipeline, road, rail and sea

From Ineos Vision & Values

Excellence in safety, health and environmental performance
Focus on customer satisfaction, total quality and reliability
Continuous improvement to become the lowest cost producer of high quality products
Encouragement of innovation, entrepreneurship and reward for achievement
Empowerment of employees to create real value for our customers and ourselves

Which is a polite way of leaving out- screwing our workers to maximise profit- which in this instance is going to cause a fuel shortage because the workers for some reason think a company that made £630 million in profit in 2006 shouldn’t be taking from their pension fund and reducing the scheme. Uppity buggers. So any bets on this being reported as- Irrational Corporate Greed causes Fuel Crisis? Hmmm, any takers?

One could write to them and urge them to settle with the union, serve their customers and share the North Sea wealth, instead of cursing fuel shortages direct that energy to-

INEOS Manufacturing Scotland
INEOS Refining Grangemouth
PO Box 21
Bo’ness Road
Grangemouth
Stirlingshire
FK3 9XH
Tel: +44 (0) 1324 48342

It might also be nice to urge politician’s in Scotland (ahem the Labour party) to support the workers and thus reach a quick solution. Best of all the profits from fossil fuels should be largely invested in new clean energy as oil based activity is environmentally poor and it is…how do you say it- running out. Or perhaps we should just leave things to corporations, after all they know how to make huge profits by siphoning off the pension fund, why with that level of innovation there’s no telling what they could come up with!

Update: This (ht2 Rebellion Sucks) [and confirmed by ‘Lord’ Rees Mogg although obviously he doesn’t take the workers side!] suggests the profits of late have dived due to the financial climate, that Ineos is structured more like an equity caper that is raiding the pensions to make up for debts from its rapid buying spree, all financed with huge loans. And as an ideological stance of maximum profits over just wages & benefits –

What lies behind the dispute? The Grangemouth refinery became part of the Ineos Group, when it bought Innovene from BP for $9 billion in 2005. This was part of the debt-funded buying spree that in ten years created what is now the world’s third largest chemicals producer from a standing start in 1997/8.

Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos chairman and CEO, and listed by the Sunday Times as the UK’s 10th richest man in 2007, borrowed $12 billion for the Innovene deal from Barclays Capital, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. The extra cash of about $3 billion was used by Ratcliffe, known as “the alchemist”, to refinance Ineos’ existing debt. And it helped to treble Ratcliffe’s estimated personal fortune to £3.3 billion.

Ineos is in trouble. Its sales and profits have been falling. In the third quarter 2007, its before-tax profits went negative – it started to make a loss. The impact of the falling value of the dollar only served to make things worse. In third quarter 2006 it made a profit of 96.9m euros on sales of 7395.7m euros. A year later, debt financing costs helped turn a gross profit of 485.9m euros on sales of 6934.1m euro into a before-tax loss of 0.9 m euros. But a tax rebate turned the loss into a profit of 1.2 m euros.

Closure of the final salary pension scheme to new entrants and reduction of the value of pensions for existing workers at Grangemouth that sparked the dispute will prove to be part of a global assault by Ineos on wages, pensions and working conditions. As the global financial and economic crisis deepens, firms in every corner of the globe will passing the burden on to their workforce if they can.

Grangemouth workers should seek support from unions across the globe in their struggle to defend conditions. They should build a campaign to transfer petrochemical production into social ownership under the control of the workforce. This will not only create the conditions for defending pensions, jobs and other rights but a necessary step in dealing with the depletion of resources and global warming that both arise from the chase for profit.

Egypt Fighting Shock Treatment

Unaligned with the west Mugabe’s oppression of Zimbabwe is common news fodder, global investors are waiting in the wings to do deals with a new administration, to implement further shocks and profit from opening up Zimbabwe, frying pan…fire. The reason Mubarak’s similar repressions go unremarked is because Egypt is aligned with the empire, second biggest recipient of US money after Israel, and because the repression is in order to inflict a neo-liberal economy where the rich will profit more than ever and poverty will overwhelm the people. America also needs Egypt to help maintain its sphere of influence over that lovely, lovely oil rich region. The news of resistance and the merciless attacks on strikers and organisers, the infiltration by secret police, intimidation, arrest and torture is confined to less corporate news sources. Great coverage at 3arabawy, constant updating and pictures, some excerpts (for full context and links visit 3arabawy)-

Egyptian security forces arrested over one hundred opposition activists across the country, seriously injured another eighty protesting residents and workers in the city of Al-Mahalla, and reportedly killed two of these locals while putting down this protest – all this on April 6 – the day on which a general strike and popular protests were planned against the sky-rocketing prices of commodities and services.

A statement by the Mahalla-based Afaq Socialist Center provides some details about the events, and accuses Mohamed el-Attar, Sayyed Habib, Magdi Sharif, Faisal Laqousha and Abdel Qader el-Deeb of touring the Ghazl el-Mahalla Company factories on the previous day trying to persuade the workers not to strike…

an “unprecedented campaign of intimidation by the Ministry of Interior, and a vast mobilization of state security,”

I’ve spoken with Kareem el-Beheiri, who’s on the run now… Kareem says hundreds were detained today in Mahalla including minors… Anyone nabbed was abused also by the police. Children were beaten up with sticks, sacks full of rocks, punches, kicks… Lawyers who showed up to defend the detainees were chased by sword-wielding plainclothes police thugs…

Mahalla is under “unofficial” curfew, according to an activist in the city I’ve just spoken with.. The town is occupied entirely by Mubarak’s Central Security Forces who managed to pacify the city by 10pm.. Citizens are instructed by microphones to stay in their homes…

Blogger Mohamed el-Sharqawi was taken from his home by the police to be interrogated at the 6th of October City Prosecution office.. Malek is still locked up in Masr el-Qadima Police Station, though police denies any knowledge of his existence…

I spoke with an activist inside the factory:
“Plainclothes.. Plainclothes.. No uniformed ones inside.. All agents are in plainclothes. State Security, police, thugs.. There are even people from the Mukhabarrat here… All uniformed personnel were withdrawn from the factory and replaced with those plainclothes agents..”

Prosecutor ordered the detention of blogger Mohamed el-Sharqawi and Kefaya’s Mohamed el-Ashqar for 15 days pending investigation… A solidarity committee has been set up to support the detainees.. WE NEED DONATIONS FOR THE DETAINEES in Cairo, Mahalla and the other provinces.. If you are in Cairo, just go to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center (1 Souq el-Tawfiqiya St) and see how you can help…

the Mubarak regime in retaliation decided to occupy El-Mahalla complex with security forces, abduct strike committee leaders Kamal El-Faioumy and Tarek Amin, arrest political activists of every political tendency in Cairo and other cities.

So go to 3arabawy, (also see Complex & Lenin).

Posted in Class War, Imperialism, Labour rights, Militarism, Shock Doctrine. Tags: , . Comments Off on Egypt Fighting Shock Treatment

Corporate Manslaughter Law a ‘damp squib’

Under the new legislation companies may face higher fines of up to 10% of turnover, or more in the most serious cases. And for the first time the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act will make government bodies liable for prosecution by lifting their Crown immunity.

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of trade union Unite, said: “Individual directors or senior managers will still not be held responsible for health and safety failures that result in the death of either their employees or members of the public.” Construction industry union Ucatt was even more damning, describing the law as “the dampest of damp squibs”.

Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie said: “Only by creating the possibility that directors will go to jail will there be a change of culture in the construction industry. “The new Act will not save the life of a single construction worker,” he said, adding that in 2007, 77 construction workers were killed at work.