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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Unite Against Fascism - oppose the EDL in Rochdale

This Saturday - 29 July

Meet at 12.30 pm on Saturday at Yorkshire Street near Poundworld, Rochdale OL16 1JW.

A week after the fascists of Britain First demonstrated in Rochdale, another group of Nazis - the EDL - will be making an incursion into the town this Saturday, 29th July.

Unite Against Fascism, trades unionists and others will be protesting for the second week running, to send a clear message to the EDL that they are not welcome in Rochdale.

The EDL is a fascist organisation. Their founder, who goes under the alias 'Tommy Robinson', was a member of the British National Party. Other leading EDL figures have also been members of the BNP.

Join us on Saturday 29 July at 12.30 pm in Rochdale town centre to show for the second time in a week that fascists are not welcome in Rochdale.

For more details, please contact northwest@uaf.org.uk.

Unaffordable justice is no justice at all

No one should underestimate the significance of this week's Employment Tribunal (ET) fees victory in the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land has taken a nasty piece of anti-worker legislation and completely ripped it to shreds. The Government has no way of wriggling off this particular hook, so they are trying to sound magnanimous in defeat, when in reality they have no choice. The scheme has been stopped with immediate effect and fees paid to date are to be refunded at an estimated cost of £27 million.

After the introduction of the fees, ET cases dropped by nearly 70% and, regrettably, many working people couldn't afford to uphold their rights at work. It is extremely unlikely that there will be any remedy for such people whose grievances remain unresolved.

The ostensible aim of the fees regime was to deter frivolous or vexatious claims. While I'm sure there have always been such claims, the experiences of reps who have dealt with ETs is that most were genuine. Any trade union rep who has dealt with personal cases will on occasions have been in the position of having to tell a disgruntled union member that, whether we like it or not, the employer is entitled to take the action in question. Everyone knows that employers have the right to discipline or dismiss staff for inefficiency or misconduct, and sometimes the role of a rep can be little more than ensuring that the employer follows correct procedures. When they do, then there is usually no point in going to an ET, which is intended to deal with discrimination and unfair dismissal.

And this is the key point: if an employer goes by the book, there is little a rep can do other than argue for mitigation as part of a damage limitation exercise. It does no one any good to take a hopeless case to an ET: it merely raises false hopes in the member, and wastes both the rep's and the tribunal's time. Charlie Mullins, an employer with 300 staff, complained on Radio 4 that the Supreme Court decision will open the floodgates. However, he has been in business for 31 years and has in all that time had one ET taken out against him: with tribunal fees only payable for 4 years, one claim in the other 27 is more of a trickle than a flood. Mullins is a Tory donor, so perhaps he feels he's not getting his money's worth.

The Government must have known how uncommon vexatious claims are - they are one of the biggest employers in the land, after all - so why did they introduce these fees? I can see no other reason than to remove a 'burden on business' by putting a price on employees' rights, but without any corresponding measures to deal with unreasonable or malicious actions by employers. While employment rights hadn't in themselves been abolished, ET fees discouraged workers from exercising them. It is a measure of how out of touch successive governments are that they do not understand that sums like £1200 are simply not available to many people - for many MPs that's considerably less than they may spend on a night out. Or, alternatively, they simply didn't care.

There will always be people who will abuse whatever system is in place, whether it be tax, social security benefits or MPs' expenses. Imposing penalties on the innocent majority ostensibly to deter the minority is unjust and - when applied to ETs - now unlawful. No one should ever have to pay crippling fees just to access basic justice.

Justice is not the prerogative solely of the rich and the powerful: it belongs to everyone.

Neville Grundy
ARMS Merseyside

Afterthought: ET fees were introduced by the Coalition. What now of the LibDems' claim that their presence in Government moderated the worst Tory excesses?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

PCS court victory - the General Secretary's view

PCS has won a highly significant judicial review ruling that our exclusion from the negotiations over the civil service redundancy scheme was "unlawful". 

Last year the government proposed to cut redundancy pay by around 30%. With thousands of civil service jobs under threat, PCS campaigned against the cuts to these payments. Before negotiations started, the Cabinet Office took the unprecedented step of asking all unions to agree, in advance, that these cuts would form the basis of the final agreement. By far the largest civil service union, PCS refused to agree these preconditions, and was excluded from the talks.

A number of smaller civil service unions agreed to the preconditions and talks went ahead. In September 2016, the Cabinet Office made an offer, which PCS members voted by 96% to reject. The government imposed the new terms in November 2016.

On Tuesday 18 July the court ruled that our exclusion from the negotiations was "unlawful". Further details of the case are reported on our website. The Court is expected to rule this week on the remedy of the case, which will determine whether the current scheme will stand or will be quashed.

Mark Serwotka
General Secretary

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Driving trains is so easy 'a woman could do it'

Pauline Cawood (left) with Ruth Kelly in
2008 (picture from ASLEF website)
During a government discussion about train strikes, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond asked why there aren't more women train drivers, seeing that the job is so simple that "even they can do it". Apparently even the prime minister took him to task over the comments.

Pauline Cawood, an ASLEF official who has been a train driver since 1998, said it was an "old-fashioned, sexist comment. He ought to be ashamed of himself. Women are just as capable as men at driving trains."

In 2008 Ruth Kelly, at the time Transport Secretary, accepted an offer by Pauline to ride in her cab to learn about trains first hand. Afterwards she commented: "I really enjoyed it. I was struck by the level of training involved and the concentration required."

Labour MP Jess Phillips said: "Philip Hammond has disgraced himself with this remark, as well as managing to insult half the country's population," adding later on Twitter: "People will say it's nothing, just a joke. Women were entirely missing from his industrial strategy & his budgets make poor women poorer. The two things are connected. It's not a joke when a women's worth and value changes our economics."

It is interesting that at a time when the RMT is campaigning for passenger safety, a senior Tory can happily indulge in cheap, sexist jibes to try to belittle the skills and professional abilities of people who routinely take responsibility for the lives and safety of hundreds of people.

The RMT is lobbying Merseytravel at Mann Island Pier Head on Monday 17 July over driver only trains. Assemble at 12.30pm. Send a message to Labour councillors that their first responsibility is to support the trade union and public demand for safety before profit. More details here.

News just received: RMT's meeting with Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram over the Merseyrail guards' dispute, which was due to take place Monday 17 July, has been rescheduled for Monday 24 July‎. The lobby is also postponed, new details will published when known.
................................
Hammond's sole professional experience of transport was 17 months as Secretary of State for Transport under David Cameron. He is not known ever to have driven a train bigger than a Hornby Dublo.

Neville Grundy
ARMS

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Oppose Driver-Only Trains, Tory/Council Cuts and sign RMT petition

TUSC (Trade Union & Socialist Coalition) news release:

Support the RMT's call to lobby Merseytravel at Mann Island on Monday 17 July at 1pm, gather at 12.30 p.m.

Late news (added 16.7.17): RMT's meeting with Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram over the Merseyrail guards' dispute, which was due to take place Monday 17 July, has been rescheduled for Monday 24 July‎. The lobby is also postponed, new details will published when known.

The general election result reflected a popular surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity alternative. It has sent out the clearest possible message that the British people have rejected the Tory programme of cuts, austerity, privatisation and division and there is no mandate for diluting safety on our transport services by imposing driver-only trains.

Labour's city region mayor and Labour Councillors on Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee should immediately lift the threat to guards on Merseyrail trains and stand firm in the face of any opposition they may incur from the Department of Transport.

TUSC decided not to stand candidates in the general election and to campaign for a Jeremy Corbyn-led government, but the Blairites have not gone away. They are preparing to mount another attack on JC and his supporters; they are especially strong amongst Labour councillors who continue to implement cuts.

TUSC will campaign for the Tories to be forced out of government before the next set of local elections in May 2018, and for Labour councils to stop implementing cuts even if the Tories are clinging on. TUSC calls on Labour Party members to deselect any Labour councillor who intend to continue making cuts, and to replace them with candidates willing to defend local public services.

P.S. Please sign the RMT letter to lobby your local MP about driver-only operation trains - link here.
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For further information contact: 
Daren Ireland on 07787128498 ~ Dave Walsh on 07969511796 ~ Tony Mulhearn on 07939098455

Unite Building Members Start Month of Strikes

Unite members formerly employed by Manchester City Council's direct works department, now outsourced to the private company Mears, are about to start a month long strike over pay and conditions.

Full details are contained in Unite's press release - click here.

This is an incredibly important strike by workers involved in a crucial industry. It is vitally important that all unions in Manchester rally in solidarity with them. The union asks all delegates to send messages of solidarity to these workers in their struggle and to support the strike in any way they can.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Blairites: "Do as we say, not as we do!"

Full marks to Jeremy for personally backing a rule change that will allow new Labour Party members to participate in selection meetings. Previously only those who joined before summer of 2015 were allowed a vote.

The Whingeing Tendency are in full cry. The democratic decision of the Wavertree members to elect an EC of their choice has been greeted with horror by the Blairites. Yvette Cooper has described the eminently reasonable suggestion for Luciana Berger to 'get on board' as intimidation.

These sensitive souls seem to forget their diatribe of hate, and sabotage against JC and calls for many of his supporters to be expelled. Caroline Flint, apparently suffering from amnesia, called for talk of reselection to be abandoned as being a distraction when Labour should be concentrating on fighting the Tories who are 'in disarray'. Even right wing BBC hack Andrew Neil reminded her that the Blairites had done exactly that after Cameron and Co resigned. Instead of attacking the Tories they turned their fire on the democratically elected leader.

The fantastic reception for JC at Durham and the clear hostility to the Blairites indicated massive support for empowering the members to select the candidates of their choice.

Tony Mulhearn
ARMS

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Serwotka's Call to ARMS

Merseyside ARMS declares its full support for the call of Mark Sewotka for a 1-day general strike of all Public Sectors Workers to break the pay cap being maintained by this illegitimate Tory government.

Mark made the call to great applause at the Tories Out demo on July 1st 2017.

Tony Mulhearn
ARMS

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Grenfell Tower - lessons from 1980s Liverpool

Flats in Croxteth, Liverpool,
being demolished
Amid the righteous grief, anger and calls for criminal investigation, Guardian writer Simon Jenkins, not usually a friend of Militant Liverpool, in a searing piece attacking the architects of the disaster, made this significant observation: 'Besides, people are entitled to the city they want. When in the 1980's Liverpool's Militant movement asked Everton's inhabitants what should be done with their towers, the reply was pull them down and give us back the streets. It was done.'

Proof, if any further was needed, that a council that listens to communities and meets their aspirations usually clashes with vested interests who are interested only in the bottom line and how much profit they can deliver to their big shareholders. Hence the outpouring of abuse against that socialist council by the political representatives of corporate Britain.

The public enquiry proposed by Teresa May should be treated with utmost scepticism unless it includes tenants, trade unions and anti-cuts campaigners with the power to interview all those whose decisions determined safety factors, including any sub-contractors who, to escape their responsibilities, no longer trade. Anything less is unacceptable.

Tony Mulhearn
ARMS
P.S. This was sent to me for the blog on 16 June, but owing to illness, I failed to publish it at the time. The argument remains valid. Apologies, Neville Grundy.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Sign up for the ARMS North West newsletter

Issue number 7 - July 2017
The North West ARMS committee publishes by e-mail a newsletter 4 or 5 times per year giving news of ARMS activities in the North West and other relevant information. The most recent edition covers the following activities, all of which involved NW ARMS members:
  • The recent London anti-austerity demo.
  • Picket at the Sheffield Jobcentre strike against Eastern Avenue office closure. 
  • ARMS presence at PCS national conference.
  • Margaret Greenwood MP for Wirral West was guest speaker at ARMS Mersey meeting in June.
  • Andrew Gwynne MP to address Manchester ARMS meeting on 14 July - details here.
  • The ARMS national forum held in Liverpool in June.
If you do not currently receive our newsletter, please send us your name and the e-mail address that you wish us to use and we will add you to our mailing list. Our contact details are here.

Your information will not be passed on to anyone else.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Standing up to the wreckers

Now in a strong position after 2 leadership
victories and a great election result
Well done Jeremy Corbyn for standing up to the Blairite wreckers by removing three from the shadow cabinet after breaking the whip on the single market! Once again, they manoeuvre when the Tories are on the run - just like they did when they started the coup against JC the weekend after Cameron resigned.

The Blairites continue to reveal their true role even after JC's great election result. They have not changed their spots. The membership will take note and act accordingly when empowered to trigger the re-selection process and replace them with true working class fighters.

Tony Mulhearn
ARMS