Friday, 25 November 2011
On Wednesday 30th November, probably millions of public sector workers will take industrial action in opposition to the ConDem government’s attack on their pensions. From nurses to teachers, from local authority staff to civil servants, this promises to be a dramatic statement of rejection of the government’s plans to make public servants work longer, pay more into their pensions, and receive less when they retire.
The unions taking part, with the ballot results are as follows:
AEP 64% for strike action
ASPECT 75.1% for strike action
ATL (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
CSP 86% England & Wales for strike action (89.1% Scotland)
FDA 81% for strike action
GMB 83.7% for strike action
NAHT 75.8% for strike action
NASUWT 82% for strike action
NUT (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
PCS (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
Prospect 75% for strike action
SCP 85.3% for strike action
SOR 86% for strike action
UCATT 83% for strike action
UCU (30 June ballot mandate still valid)
Unison 82% for strike action
Unite 75% for strike action
The government spin has been all about ‘gold plated’ public sector pensions, but in reality, the average public sector pension (median, i.e. the one that 50% will receive) is a paltry £5,600 per year. Not even copper plated, let alone gold plated. The government is trying to divide and rule, by pointing to the private sector, where most workers are not in inflation linked pensions, as the model for the public sector. It has long been an attraction of public sector employment that although the pay is lower than in the private sector, at least the pensions were reliable. Indeed two in three private sector workers have no workplace pension at all. These workers without a pension should not direct their anger at public sector workers, but should be livid at the extraordinary costs of providing pensions' tax relief, with two-thirds of the £30 billion bill going to higher rate taxpayers.
This latest assault on public sector pensions comes after the government reduced the rate at which pension’s rise, by moving from the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which excludes housing costs, and generally runs at about 1% less than RPI. Whilst at the same, the government refuses to do anything about pay, bonuses and the pension arrangements of those in boardrooms of private corporations, even the banks, some which are publically owned, and most of who received bail outs from the public purse.
But we are well used to this kind of hypocrisy from the government, where everything possible must be done to encourage the so called ‘wealth creators’, who are really responsible for creating chaos and poverty in our economy, but are revered rather like rock stars. I’ve never understood why rich people need to be paid more to encourage them to work harder, but poorer people need to be paid less.
The Green party supports public sector workers in this fight for fair treatment and our two London Assembly Members, Jenny Jones and Darren Johnston will not be going to work on 30th November, as a statement of solidarity with those taking action. There is a march in London, starting at 12.00 noon from Lincoln Inns Field to a rally at Victoria Embankment, plus a protest at the GLA building at 12 noon also. There are hundreds of events planned all over the country on the day, check here for details.
Locally, there will be a rally in support of the industrial action at the College Of North East London (CONEL) at 10am on the day and Haringey Alliance for Public Services (HAPS) is intending to visit picket lines around the borough, to give support to striking workers. Please join them as it is good for morale when the public shows support for their cause. There is also a protest at Haringey Civic Centre, beginning 12.00 noon.
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Britain faces the biggest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s, including the potential for economic meltdown and a second Great Depression lasting a decade or more.
The government's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has suggested that we are facing a crisis similar to wartime, with our national future at stake. In these circumstances, we need bold, imaginative and radical measures to fix the economy.
Britain has a national debt of around £950 billion and a government deficit heading towards £200 billion. The government's solution is swingeing cuts in public services and consequent massive job losses. It even claims that cuts are the only option left.
Not true. There are serious alternatives.
As well as closing tax avoidance schemes, which could raise an extra £20 billion a year, there is a strong case for a national emergency tax on the fabulously wealthy, which could raise staggering sums - enough to clear the government deficit, pay off most of the national debt, kick-start the economy and avoid the need for damaging, painful cuts in jobs and public services.
The current economic crisis is so grave that it merits a 'save the nation' one-off 20% tax on the personal wealth of richest 10% of the population, as proposed by Professor Greg Philo and the Glasgow Media Group.
The wealthiest 10% of the population have combined personal assets totalling £4 million, million pounds. This is a million pounds multiplied 4 million times. These are the people who have five plus million pound homes (often several of them), plus private yachts and jets and vast art collections. They can easily afford a once-only 20% tax on their immense wealth. Selling off one of their six houses, a Lamborghini or a Jackson Pollack painting won't cause them to suffer.
Such a tax would raise a massive £800 billion. This is enough to pay off the entire government deficit more than four times over - or it could be used to clear most of the national debt.
A reduction in the national debt would dramatically cut the government's huge debt interest payments, which amount to around £48 billion a year. This is a vast sum of money that would be better spent on schools, hospitals, pensions and job-creation.
Alternatively, and even more useful in terms of reviving the economy, the £800 billion (or part of it) could be used to fund the proposed Green New Deal.
Modelled on Roosevelt's 1930s New Deal, which got America back to work and ended the Great Depression, this Green New Deal would create lots of green jobs in energy conservation, renewable energy, public transport and affordable homes; simultaneously helping remedy climate destruction and kick-starting economic recovery.
The Green New Deal could ensure that Britain leads the world in sustainable economics and green technologies, opening up new export markets and boosting our economic revival for many decades to come.
According to a YouGov poll in June 2010, 74% of the public favour a one-off tax on the richest people in Britain. Only 10% oppose it.
With great wealth comes great responsibility. The mega rich have the capacity and responsibility to help the country out of the mess we are in. They benefited disproportionately from the boom times. Now that times are tough they should contribute disproportionately to get the British economy back in shape.
Put bluntly: The super rich have a patriotic duty to help save the economy by paying more tax. If they love Britain, they will be willing to do this, in order to help us win through the current economic crisis.
Contributing more tax is in the interest of those with huge wealth. If the economy fails, their losses will be even more than the greater tax they are being asked to pay. By giving more to the exchequer now they would be doing the morally right thing for the country and its citizens. They would also, by helping save the economy, also save most of their own riches. It's enlightened self-interest.
Written by Peter Tatchell and first published at The Huffington Post
For more information about Peter Tatchell's human rights and social justice campaigns: www.petertatchell.net
Friday, 18 November 2011
On the 9th of November 2011 at a Shell-sponsored awards ceremony in the swanky corporate offices of the CBI (Britain’s biggest business lobby group), young entrepreneurs are looking towards a bright future.
Sixteen years ago, Shell made sure that Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other young Nigerian activists had no future. On 10th November 1995, Shell was complicit in their execution at the hands of the Nigerian military government for campaigning against the devastation of their homeland the Niger Delta by oil companies, in particular Shell.
And every day, all over the world – from building dodgy pipelines in Rossport, Ireland, to mining the world’s most polluting oil from the Canadian tar sands – Shell’s oil exploration and extraction activities undermine our collective future by pushing us ever closer to the brink of climate catastrophe. At the same time, it rakes in billions in profit every month, while the rest of us struggle to get by.
Shell doesn’t want us to remember these horrific things. So it channels a miniscule fraction of its obscene profits into sponsoring events like Livewire – not to mention most of the major arts and cultural institutions in London.
That’s why we’re here tonight: to remember – and to resist.
Nigeria: Shell’s dirty secret
The hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni colleagues – whose only crime was to speak out for environmental and social justice – caused shock and outrage around the world. But whatever we might like to think, the human rights abuses perpetrated by Shell continue to this day. Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbate armed conflict, and oil spills and gas flaring continue to devastate the fragile environment of the Niger Delta and the lives of the people who live there. But resistance continues as well; the UN has issued a damning report on the ecological impact of oil spills in Ogoni, and Shell was recently forced to admit liability and pay out millions of pounds in compensation for two massive oil spills after a lawsuit filed in London.
Sponsorship: buying us off
Sponsorship of events like Livewire is one of the most important ways Shell tries to protect its reputation and buy our acceptance. By sponsoring a social 'good' like an award to help young entrepreneurs, the oil giant is able to represent itself as a responsible organisation, and distract our attention from its environmental and social crimes around the world. By being here tonight, we strike a blow to Shell’s precious brand, chip away at Shell’s powerful position in our society, and move towards the day when Big Oil – like Big Tobacco – is no longer seen as a socially acceptable.
Remember climate change?
Climate change may have disappeared from the news recently, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is already claiming 300,000 lives a year. Glaciers, permafrost and sea ice are disappearing. Sea levels are rising, seasons changing and extreme weather becoming more extreme. As temperatures rise, we’ll see more flooding, more drought, more disease, more famine and more war, creating hundreds of millions of refugees and causing the destruction of entire ecosystems and species.
We can’t afford to forget about climate change – or the fact that companies like Shell are at the heart of the problem.
For more information and to get involved:
Twitter: @shelldeathrope and @risingtide_UK
Thursday, 17 November 2011
London holds the largest French community outside France, with over 300,000 people and there are currently four Green MP’s in the French parliament. Do you know any French people in your neighbourhood? The French Greens (Europe Ecologie/Les Verts or EELV) need to reach as many Green French people as possible, because next year, for the first time ever, French citizens based abroad will be electing eleven MP’s to represent them.
As a long term resident of Britain I am delighted, but many of my compatriots are not registered at their consulate and would therefore be missing out. So, please tell all the French people you know, or meet, to register at their general consulate by 31 December 2011.
We have a real chance to get a Green MP for northern Europe: our candidate for this constituency is Olivier Bertin. Based in London since 1992, Olivier is 43 and was a candidate for the Green party in last year’s local elections in London. He worked as a PE teacher and started a bilingual infant school last January. Since 2001, he has been the elected representative of the UK’s French People Abroad (AFE). He is especially interested in people’s rights and civil liberties and is regularly involved in Amnesty International’ campaigns.
French citizens in London (and elsewhere abroad) should contact their consulate to register. EELV’s UK’s secretary is Alexis Baudon, who you can email at email@example.com.
Written by Yvan Maurel
Cardiff Green Party and EELV UK
Monday, 14 November 2011
A rousing speech by Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader to the Occupy London SX at St Paul's last week.
Caroline has set the pace amongst politicians in embracing the Occupy movement, which has taken the establishment politicians by surprise.
The movement offers hope, for all those people who have lost faith in contemporary politics, let's take this movement forward.
Friday, 11 November 2011
The wearing of a red poppy at this time of year, in the approach to Remembrance Sunday, is a well-established practice in Britain. It is virtually impossible to see anyone on television who is not wearing a poppy, so ingrained has become the convention. Indeed, it seems to me that there is a kind of moral bullying of people, especially if they are appearing on television, to conform to this national ritual.
In recent years, the wearing of a white poppy has grown in popularity amongst those (mainly on the political left) as a way of showing respect to the war dead, whilst at the same time as making an anti-war statement. Personally, I have worn both red and white poppies, but tend not wear any poppy at all, but I do sometimes buy one or the other, and put it in a drawer. I am anti-war, of course, but I don’t see the motive of those displaying a red poppy as pro-war, rather they are bowing to convention with some vague notion of showing respect for those who fought and died, and in the case of the World War 2, in a noble cause.
We have had the ridiculous spectacle this week of the media being saturated with the story of the English and Welsh football teams being denied permission by FIFA, to wear a red poppy emblem on their shirts in football matches this weekend. We must never have played international games on this weekend before, because I can’t ever remember this being an issue before. The Prime Minister even vented his fury in Parliament at the decision, when surely this country has more to worry about at the moment than this issue?
I have to say, I have some sympathy for FIFA’s decision, to ban all political and religious emblems from football shirts. Whatever detractors say to the contrary, the poppy (red or white) is a political symbol. Although most people would agree that World War 2 was a ‘just war’, what about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands? These wars were highly political and controversial and are seen as so, and in large parts of the world this would cause offence. What if the Argentine football team wanted to wear some emblem associated with their claim for sovereignty of the Falkland Islands?
A compromise was achieved, and the football players can now wear the red poppy on a black arm band, though how this differs from the front of the shirt is difficult to see.
The wearing of red poppies began after World War 1, as a fundraiser for injured soldiers and to show remembrance for those fallen soldiers, in what was a disgusting slaughter of mainly young working class men, sent to their deaths by an uncaring military and political establishment, in the cause of imperial domination. A war that, after four years of millions of casualties on both sides, the winning Allies side, had advanced by less than twenty miles, and inflicted unimaginable horror on those involved and which scarred a whole generation across Europe. It still amazes me that only in Russia, did the people rise up and remove those responsible for this most unjust of wars.
Wear your poppies, red or white, or don’t wear one at all, but remember the conflicting nature of whatever you do. I’ll leave the final word to the great Wilfred Owen, whose poetry did most to inform a nation of the true horror of modern warfare.
The Last Laugh
'Oh! Jesus Christ! I'm hit,' he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped-In vain, vain, vain!
Machine-guns chuckled,-Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Gun guffawed.
Another sighed,-'O Mother, -Mother, - Dad!'
Then smiled at nothing, childlike, being dead.
And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
And the splinters spat, and tittered.
'My Love!' one moaned. Love-languid seemed his mood,
Till slowly lowered, his whole faced kissed the mud.
And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;
Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;
And the Gas hissed.