Join the discussions – you can comment below each post.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

RMT - DOO trains talks collapse

Talks aimed at ending the Merseyrail guards' dispute collapsed yesterday when the company flatly refused to discuss the RMT's compromise solution to the issue of Driver Only Operation (DOO) trains.

Arguments that DOO trains are just as safe simply do not stand up to scrutiny. Figures from RAIB (the Rail Accident Investigation Branch) show that 80% of the deaths and the most serious injuries in the last six years occurred on DOO trains, even though such trains account for only 30% of all trains in the UK. If technology such as CCTV is beneficial, it should be operated by a crew member who can give it their full attention, not someone who needs to concentrate on staying on the correct side of a red signal.

Roger Bannister, TUSC Liverpool region mayoral candidate, condemns Labour councillors for their complicity in the cavalier attitude of the company. He is also appalled by Steve Rotheram's failure to intervene to support the RMT in their objective of ensuring the safety of the travelling public. This can only be seen as a clear sign that he will preside over guards being withdrawn. Roger calls for continuing support for the rail union’s determination to protect all passengers.

Roger will be addressing a pre-election public meeting on Tuesday 2 May at 7.30 pm in the Liverpool pub, James Street, Liverpool, L2 7NS.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Blair: the dangerous con artist

Blair's biographer Tom Bower starts from the assumption that 'Blair was nothing more than a gameshow con artist.' But Blair doesn't play it for laughs; he loves dictators, anti-trade union laws, starting wars, and then picking up a fortune from the consequences of the chaos he creates. 

The ruling class keep this bloke on the back-burner to be wheeled out from time to time and given mass coverage to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. 70% of the public believe he should be on trial for war crimes. Incredibly this Labour traitor is still a member of the Labour Party. Why aren't the 170 back stabbers and Tom Watson demanding his expulsion?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

MPA calls for a socialist Labour manifesto

The following statement was agreed by the Merseyside Pensioners' Association (MPA) at its meeting on Wednesday 19 April 2017.

This MPA regards the general election called for June 8 2017 as an opportunity to get rid of the Tory government once and for all. We call on Jeremy Corbyn to fight the election on the policies which propelled him to the leadership.

We call on him to continue to fight for

a) The complete public ownership of the NHS

b) The nationalisation of rail, energy, the Post Office as the first step of moving toward socialism

c) Support for a crash council house building programme

d) The repeal of the Tory anti-trade union legislation

e) The retention of the triple lock to protect pensions

We call for the organisation of mass rallies throughout the country, beginning in Liverpool, to mobilise maximum support for a Corbyn victory. This will be essential to combat the poisonous anti-Corbyn media campaign which will take place.

We also declare that those Blairite MPs who continue to undermine Jeremy's leadership will be acting as agents of the Tory government and will be guilty of treachery to the working class.

We resolve to apply all our energies to ensure a Corbyn victory.

Friday, 21 April 2017

We need a government to help us realise our potential

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy impressed Greater Manchester ARMS members at their meeting last month.

At our meeting, Rebecca Long-Bailey spoke about decent pensions, social care, WASPI issues, PIP, benefit sanctions and expectations on staff regarding sanctions, the importance of trade unions and retired members campaigning. Here is her response to the announcement of the general election, which covers much of the same ground.

The media has been busy destroying Jeremy Corbyn's reputation. Time to ignore them and vote for the best policies for the NHS, the homeless, to get rid of food banks, to get rid of cuts in education, cuts in care, cuts in public sector pay, closure of job centres, cuts in benefits, ever increasing pension age etc. In my view that can only be a Jeremy Corbyn led government.

Jacquie Hadfield
ARMS

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Useless politics?

Tony Mulhearn of ARMS responds to a letter in the Liverpool Echo dismissive of Labour's record in Liverpool in the 1980s.

It was noticeable that your correspondent made no effort to challenge the argument that parents are getting ripped off by the travel companies, also that he/she decides to remain anonymous (Useless Politics 17/4/2017). As for public ownership of ice cream vans, that’s a ridiculous notion. Who suggested that?

Before dismissing the politics of the 80s as being prehistoric, he/she should check out what was achieved in the 80s in the fields of housing, jobs, services, nursery schools, apprenticeships, not to mention the millions won back from the government. Somewhat different from his idol Mayor Joe who, it is claimed, has done more than us for the city he loves. Does that include slashing £349m from the city’s provision for the neediest whilst facilitating the needs of Peel Holdings and Everton Football Club when they are big and ugly enough to fend for themselves?

As for my writing a positive letter about the city, I’ve written plenty of those. But I’m not blind to what life is like for thousands as revealed in the excellent piece by Liam Thorpe (Echo 17/4/17) in which he highlights the atrocious living conditions of people living in Kensington, two miles from our wonderful waterfront. It is the job of our elected leaders to fight government cuts and campaign for the resources to remedy the blight revealed by Liam.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Launch of ARMS national blog

The ARMS national committee has launched a national blog to provide information about ARMS that will be of interest to all current ARMS members, prospective members and PCS representatives who wish to find out more about ARMS. The site will be regularly updated with topical news stories and information about ARMS members’ activities.

ARMS has webpages on the PCS national website (links on the right), but this is the first national site devoted entirely to ARMS. As with most blogs, including this one, you are able to comment on whatever is posted. To see the blog, click here, or use the link on the right.

You can follow both the new national blog and this one by inserting your e-mail address in the 'Follow is by e-mail' box, and adding both sites to your 'favourites' list.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

When thieves fall out

I'm curious about the cause of the blood-letting between Liverpool Labour councillors and Metro Mayor candidate Steve Rotheram as they both embrace the insane strategy of carrying through Tory cuts as the best way of defending the city. Why then are Labour Councillors refusing to distribute election literature for Labour's Metro Mayor candidate?

It appears that Rotheram's reference to the damage wreaked on Liverpool by Thatcher has triggered unease among Labour councillors on the grounds it will remind people of the campaign to defend the city spearheaded by the socialist council in the 1980s. Councillor Steve Mumby is quoted as bleating that he 'can’t think of anything more damaging than to put out a leaflet evoking the 80s which will remind people of Militant.' His anxiety is justified. The more the younger generation learn about the magnificent campaign of resistance to Thatcher spearheaded by the 47 the more they will question the role of Labour Councillors and MPs who meekly accept Tory cuts without any semblance of a fight-back.

This follows on from an incident in the local Garston and Halewood Labour Party, when a resolution supporting the RMT's campaign against driver only trains was ruled out of order on the grounds that it would embarrass Rotheram. This is another reason for supporting TUSC’s Roger Bannister, the only anti-austerity pro-RMT Metro Mayor candidate.

Tony Mulhearn
ARMS

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners lose High Court action

In recent months, the Lancashire anti-fracking campaign has been actively supported by PCS ARMS members from our Manchester group, while our Mersey group listened in shock last month to local anti-fracking campaigners who were guest speakers at their AGM. The meeting passed a motion of opposition to fracking.

Today, campaigners fighting a Government decision to give the go-ahead for a fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire have lost their High Court action. This had followed the secretary of state's overturning of Lancashire County Council's refusal to grant permission to extract shale gas at the site in 2015 on the grounds of noise and traffic impact. Developer Cuadrilla appealed to the secretary of state who subsequently ruled in their favour.

In response to the court ruling, the Preston New Road Action Group said it would seek further legal advice on its options and was determined not to give up. Claire Stephenson, a member of the group, said: "Justice and democracy have not been observed in Lancashire. We are truly dismayed at this decision."

Elisabeth Whitebread, Greenpeace UK Energy Campaigner, said: "Lancashire said No to fracking from the start but the government overruled local people and the local council. In this legal challenge Preston New Road Action Group has represented thousands of people. Ordinary members of the community have been peacefully opposing fracking for six years and they won't stop now.

"Lancashire needs clean, reliable energy, innovation and job creation, not disruptive drilling, noise, air and light pollution. Our government should listen to the public, stop prioritising fracking, and instead support cutting edge renewables and battery storage, which can meet our energy needs."

Fracking caused two minor earthquakes in the Fylde coast area in 2011, and local residents and campaigners believe there is much worse environmental damage to come. They feel that the decision to overrule the council's refusal of planning permission is an affront to local democracy. The government talks of handing power back from the centre, but retains its right of veto when local decisions stand in the way of big profits.

The frack-free Lancs website is here.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Merseyrail strike 8 April - RMT statement

We are fighting to keep the guarantee of a guard on every train. We do not want to be striking today [8 April] but we are fighting to keep the guarantee of a guard on every train. At the moment you are guaranteed, in addition to the driver, a second safety critical member of staff to protect your safety and act in emergencies. The guard's training and competencies are so important for passenger safety that the guard must be on every train.

In a report produced for Merseytravel in April 2014, Future Merseyrail Rolling Stock - what passengers want, the factor which emerged as by far the most important to improve from the passenger perspective was personal security on the train, which reached an index of 180 (compared to 100 which signifies the average relative importance).

Guards' duties include protecting you and the train, safely securing the doors and dealing with emergencies such as derailments, evacuation, fires and driver incapacity. In fact, guards have extensive training and retraining in 35 areas of safety competency. They are also required to hold detailed knowledge of the routes they work and have an understanding of signalling systems. This knowledge has to be refreshed every two years with stringent exams.

We do not want to be out on strike today but Merseytravel are refusing to recognise that the cost of the new trains cannot be met by removing the very staff that passengers value the most. We have highlighted the enormous profits Serco and the Dutch state-owned Merseyrail are making out of this contract - 25% of the passenger revenue last year alone. With profits of £14 million this would more than cover the cost of retaining guards on the trains.

In his letter to Mayor Joe Anderson, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "…there is an opportunity for both having modern new trains and keeping a guard on the train yet the company have refused point blank to agree to this. It seems that the company position is that the new trains will be paid for by passengers losing their guards and our members losing their jobs while the company lose nothing, instead carrying on making a huge profit - with much of these profits going to Dutch state owned Abellio."

The people of Liverpool deserve to know whether Liverpool's politicians will side with the private operators SERCO and Dutch state-owned Abellio, who own Merseyrail, or with the passengers and the unions who wish to keep the guarantee of a guard on their trains.

Please support the RMT campaign. Click here to find out how you can help make Merseytravel see sense and keep the guard on the train and keep the train safe.

This is what can happen on a DOO train...

"Witnesses described scenes of ‘sheer terror and panic’ and said people were forced to ‘jump on the tracks’ after smoke started filling an Overground train at Dalston Kingsland station."
Evening Standard, 8 February 2017 - full article here.

This was a Driver Only Operated train. A guard on the train would have ensured this was dealt with safely and calmly and the train evacuated in a controlled orderly way.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

NHS Protest 'In The Spirit Of The Suffragettes'

Taken from a press release by the Merseyside Pensioners Association:

On Tuesday April 11 The Merseyside Pensioners Association (MPA) will be leading a chorus of protest in the spirit of the suffragettes before the meeting of the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The MPA is calling on all Merseysiders who are alarmed at continuing cuts in NHS services to join them in the protest. Please assemble with your banners and posters outside the Lewis's building, Renshaw Street at 1.30pm.

Chair of the MPA Julie Lyon-Taylor said "Liverpool NHS bosses have given themselves a 50% pay increase as a reward for running down our precious NHS and pensioners are blamed for using too many beds. The reality is that social care has been slashed by the government and many pensioners can't be sent home because there is no care for them in the community. Everyone is suffering because of privatisation and budget cuts. The CCG are a law unto themselves. It is clear in Liverpool they can do as they please and believe they do not answer to anyone. We are determined to raise the issue of the salary increases at the meeting".

Pensioners decided to protest following the outrageous revelation that the CCG chairman Nadim Fazlani got a £50,000 rise. Most of the pay rises relate to the 2014-15 financial year when the chair's salary rose from approximately £105,000 to £155,000. Deputy CCG chairman Prof Maureen Williams saw an increase of at least a third, from £70,000-£75,000 to £100,000 while the chief officer and chief finance officer both received rises of about 15%.

Keep our NHS Public!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Events in the North West around May Day

North East Lancashire May Day event

Assemble at the Town Hall, Manchester Road, Burnley, at 11:30am on Monday 1st May for a march through the town to a rally in Towneley Park.

The Manchester May Day Festival

We're live on Eventbrite now for two great evenings of entertainment at the Manchester Mechanics Institute. Tickets are free or donation for unwaged and £5 for waged. Booking is essential as places are limited.

On Saturday 29th April from 19.30 we've got our music night. We start straight after the May Day rally so make sure you stick around.

09.30 Tony Harper - Tony is a local singer songwriter with an Americana/ Folk feel focussing on contemporary and traditional songs of resistance.

20.00 Claire Mooney - A favourite of the Manchester May Day Festival and sponsored by the Musician's Union, Claire’s music is defined by her passion and her politics. She writes of protest, peace, justice, love and life in an enthralling blend of passionate, playful and political songs.
21.00 Quiet Loner – Songwriter in residence at the People's History Museum Matt Hill is an understated yet powerful solo performer delivering a live show that is emotional, political, occasionally angry but nearly always gentle and human

22.00 Honeyfeet Duo - Ríoghnach Connolly & Ellis Davies – We are very pleased to announce that Honeyfeet Duo are joining us at the Manchester May Day Festival this year. Ríoghnach Connolly is a force of nature, a singer of great versatility and soul. Her style is her own, and you can hear this as she wraps her vocal chords around a jazz take on a folk tune, or when leading an electro-hip-hop group onstage. Here, she'll be joined by Ellis Davies, as they sing the music of Honeyfeet in a stripped back format, along with the traditional Irish music and sean nós with which she grew up.

Book your tickets here now!

On Sunday 30th April from 19.00, we've got an evening of comedy, poetry and fun and we're pleased to announce a great line-up.

19.00 Annette Fagan. If you saw her at Unison's Mental Health and Community Branch celebration, you'll want to see her again. If you missed her make sure you see her this time! Annette will present a unique celebration of African-Caribbean Comedy at this years festival in a bold and innovative way using both theatre-style shows and street theatre

20.00 Gerry Potter. Manchester based Poet, director, actor, author of the hit play Miracle, and both creator and destroyer of the infamous gingham diva, Chloe Poems. A favourite son of both Manchester and his home town Liverpool, he has a reputation for putting his Scouse voice on the line and is strong on poetry and strong on the causes of poetryism.

20.30 Keri Leigh. Also based in Manchester, Kerry Leigh is FUNNY. She writes all her own comedy material and does all her own washing. She has hosted Laughing Cows Comedy since 2004 through several pregnancies, one marriage, and two anaphylactic shocks.

Get your tickets here. Our line up isn’t complete yet: see our Facebook page here for more info.

Annette Wright
Organiser, Manchester TUC
07773790782

International Workers Memorial Day, Liverpool

The Bob Tressell Festival - Friday 28th April 2017.

This year our commemoration will take place at 11:30am on the South Piazza of Georges Dock Building, Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1DD (corner of Mann Island and the Strand).

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their employees' safety just wasn't that important a priority. International Workers' Memorial Day (IWMD) commemorates these workers. Speakers to include representatives from local Trade Unions, LTUC and Asbestos Campaigners.

For more information, please contact Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group, 0151 236 1895.

Festival details here.

Salford May Day 2017

150 years of unity in the community. Parade from 1pm to 3pm.

May Day is a day where Communities come together to celebrate their diversity all around the world. Here in Salford, the role for organising May Day has been traditionally done by Salford Trades Union Council (est. 1866) and this year we want to spread the message of Unity in the Community.

We'd like to invite all community groups to join us on the annual May Day parade on Monday 1st May. Please bring banners and flags to make it as colourful as possible.

Guest Speakers Bishop of Manchester; Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett; Rebecca Long Bailey MP and Republic of Swing samba band leading the parade.

Assemble: 1pm at The Sacred Trinity Church, Chapel Street, M3 5BZ.
End rally: Bexley Square, Chapel Street, 2.30pm.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

TUSC announce candidate for Liverpool Metro Mayor

This is taken from a press release from the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) sent to me by Tony Mulhearn of PCS ARMS. Angela Grant, council candidate (see below), is a PCS DWP GEC member. If there are any other progressive PCS members standing for election in the North West, let us know for a mention on this blog.

The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition has announced that Roger Bannister has been selected as candidate for the Liverpool City Regional Mayoral election which is taking place on 4th May 2017.

Roger stood for Liverpool city mayor last year and won 4950 votes, beating the Tories and far-right candidates. Roger has pledged to take only a worker's wage if elected City Region Mayor; he will donate the rest to campaigns and working class communities fighting to defend their jobs and services.

Roger said: "I am about opposing austerity, defending the guards on the Merseyrail trains and keeping Liverpool Women's Hospital open. The City Region Mayor should be standing up for the people of the region who deserve investment into public services and a better future, not endless austerity.

"Labour is pushing through the 'driver only operation' on Merseyrail to the point where rail-workers feel no alternative but to strike on the 8th April. Labour is wobbling over hospital closures but united on making more cuts to council-run services. TUSC and I have no such doubts: we support the rail guards, we defend our hospitals, we keep our council services.

"Our message is clear: no more austerity, no more cutbacks, closures and job losses. We need to stand up to the Tories and their super-rich mates, who are responsible for the economic savagery unleashed on the living standards of the many across the city region."

TUSC is also fielding candidates at council by-elections in Liverpool and on the Wirral.

Leon Wheddon, council candidate for the Claughton ward on the Wirral, said: "I joined Labour last year looking for an anti-austerity organisation, but found that here it is still the party of Tony Blair. So I switched to TUSC. In Claughton, I will offer an alternative to the 'Tory-lite' policies of Labour's local representatives: we need more public services not less, more affordable housing not more unaffordable developments, and to look after our environment not concrete it over."

Angela Grant, council candidate for the Wavertree ward in Liverpool, said: "Our Women’s hospital is at risk of closure and we've got tent cities of the homeless in the city centre. The Tories will keep kicking us until we fight back. Liverpool Labour has no intention of mounting any effective resistance to the government, but TUSC does and that's why I'm proud to be standing for TUSC again."