Osborne’s National Living Wage is a Complete Con

Budget day protest in Parliament Square, London 8th July 2015. Photo: Steve Eason

Budget day protest in Parliament Square, London 8th July 2015.
Photo: Steve Eason

Eleanor Firman, Unite Community activist and Left Unity member, shares her views on yesterday’s announcement by Chancellor George Osborne.

The compulsory National Living Wage which Osborne announced today is a complete and utter con. The media are hyping it as the Tories stealing Labour’s clothes but the miniscule Living Wage is not about Osborne getting tough with low wage-paying bosses – the reality is in fact the complete opposite: the Tory Chancellor is merely instructing businesses to return a tiny fraction of the money that has been stolen from our (social) wages and handed to bosses in the form of the employers’ National Insurance ‘allowance’ that began last year (up to £2000 per employer) and was increased by Osborne yesterday to £3000.[1]

Society seems to have forgotten that Employers’ N.I. contributions are actually part of wages – they are the portion of the wage that instead of being paid direct to the employee is forwarded directly to Treasury by the employer where it is pooled with all N.I. contributions and returned to workers in the form of the social wage i.e. the welfare state provisions of pensions, the NHS, compulsory education and social housing. So employer’s contributions are actually our wages but we don’t see it because it is paid on our behalf and then collectivised before we get our pay packet. This collectivisation includes spending in the form of social assistance for those who cannot work due to their impairments or those whose pay is inadequate.

This system of social insurance that began in 1946 is commonly referred to as the post war social settlement but understood by the left as a compromise between labour and capital to fend off rising social unrest: capital could keep a certain amount of profit if workers laboured not just for subsistence wages in the form of cash, but also improved social conditions.

Now public services and welfare are being dismantled and employers are being made to give back a tiny portion of their new N.I. allowance to the workers in the form of the new ‘national living wage’ – but the overall amount of tax and N.I. allowances bosses receive will more than offset a marginally more expensive workforce. Let’s not forget corporation tax was also cut to 18% along with other tax breaks for the rich.[2] So this national ‘living wage’ is not just a downgraded replacement of the higher voluntary living wage as many are pointing out, – but is actually a cut to the existing compulsory minimum wage.

Osborne was deadly serious when he described his budget as a new social settlement. But do the public realise what has really been lost? Less tax and less welfare does not just mean higher incomes for a few, and lower incomes for the many. It means less public services as well as greater financial inequality. Iain Duncan Smith’s reaction yesterday in the Commons and the following day in the Daily Telegraph, clearly signalled that for people like him who only came into politics to realise the vision of Margaret Thatcher, Osborne’s National Living Wage is a dream come true. For the rest of us it’s a laissez faire nightmare.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/employment-allowance

[2] In a bid to reassure businesses, the chancellor also reiterated that the cost to business will amount to one per cent of corporate profits, which he has offset with the cut in corporation tax to 18 per cent. Smaller firms would be helped by a cut in their national insurance contributions. From 2016, the new employment allowance will be increased by 50 per cent to £3,000 and a company employing four full-time workers on the new national living wage would pay no national insurance.
http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/30726-summer-budget-2015-compulsory-national-living-wage-gets-mixed-reception

George Monoux dispute: NUT statement on the suspension of strike action

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch has issued this statement following the temporary suspension of their strike action:

Following discussions between NUT officials and the Chair of Corporation, a new proposal has been put forward with the aim of resolving the dispute over the unfair sackings of Flor Thompson and Diane George. This will involve an independent adjudicator hearing evidence and presenting a new report to the Corporation. Any member of staff can present evidence to this adjudicator, and their evidence will be anonymous.

To facilitate an attempt to resolve the dispute, the NUT will co-operate with this process and has decided to suspend the action planned for this week. In doing so we wish to stress:

1) The NUT remains in dispute with the college on this issue.

2) We have made no commitment to respect the outcome of this process, especially as the adjudicator’s report goes to the Corporation itself. Our resolve the fight for a fair outcome of our members remains undiminished. The college in turn has not given any pledge to respect the findings of the adjudicator.

3) We have merely suspended industrial action for this week. Our ballot for discontinuous strike action remains in force and allows us to resume strike action next term should this be necessary.

The NUT remains easily the biggest union in the college and the overwhelming majority of our members have respected the picket lines. We congratulate our members for their continued solidarity and determination in the face of the barrage of propaganda and disinformation ranged against them.

Walthamstow eviction resistance workshop

Sunday 5 July 4-6pm, St Barnabas Church Hall, St Barnabas Rd, Walthamstow, E17 8JZ

Nearest rail: Walthamstow Queens Rd (Gospel Oak to Barking Line)

Nearest tube/rail: Walthamstow Central (Victoria line, also Liverpool St – Chingford rail)

Map/buses directions

And join us later next door where a pop up pub is selling fine ales from Wildcard Brewery

Organised by Unite Community Waltham Forest, Radical Housing Network and Eviction Resistance

For more information, contact: 0795 404 7527

Save the Independent Living Fund protest: an activist’s report

On 24 June disability activists went to Parliament. Here one activist explains what happened.

The lobby of ILF on 24-06-15 turned into a demonstration. The ILA PA arrived at 0840, followed by the cab at 0845. This demonstration was no surprise, my revolutionary comrade Andy Greene briefed me beforehand. So we all filed into the central lobby, about thirty of us, all defiant. We got our green cards on which you note MPs down, sometimes they will see you. At a given signal we all hurtled down a corridor. At the end there was a door, directly behind which prime minister’s questions were occurring. We raced down the corridor following our inspirational leader followed by thirty police officers, who were determined to get our chairs out of there. We were shouting “save the ILF” and we just outside the main chamber where there was Prime Ministers Questions. We could not get in the main chamber but the police grabbed my chair and I put my brakes on and dug my heels in the floor. Nonetheless they shoved my chair into the main lobby where we shouted “save the ILF” but my PA was very determined, and was helping a disabled lady. The police dragged him out, so I had to leave with him, he was a foreign national so I was scared he would be deported. After this, disabled people went outside and blocked the road, they went outside Downing Street and protested, but I stayed with my PA.

Disability, oppression and resistance

This is based on the introduction to a discussion on the politics of disability given by Roderick C at a recent Waltham Forest Left Unity meeting.

Like blacks, women and LGBT people, disabled people are a group who routinely suffer discrimination and oppression in society. Although some argue that this is the inevitable result of the physical and mental impairments that we possess, or people’s basic prejudices about disabled people, this article argues that the systematic oppression of disabled people as we know it today has at its root how capitalism developed as a system.

In saying this, we should avoid idealising pre-capitalist society. Although there is undoubtedly some truth in the idea that in such societies, based on rural subsistence production and extended families, disabled members of the family would be cared for and even contribute to production, prejudice was rife in many societies. Martin Luther famously called disabled children “changelings” and argued they should be put to death, and in ancient Greece a child was not regarded as a child for seven days after birth, allowing disabled babies to be killed without moral stigma.

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Teachers at George Monoux College announce further strike action

Teachers at Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College have voted to step up their strike action in defence of two colleagues sacked for their union roles.

wpid-wp-1434999397873.jpegNational Union of Teachers (NUT) members at the college say that Flor Thompson, union health and safety representative, and Diane George, joint college rep, were victimised by college management and that the charges against them are ridiculous.
Flor Thompson was originally suspended in 2013 and sacked after one year’s suspension. She was later reinstated after a governors’ inquiry, only to be re-suspended and sacked in 2015 on a different set of trumped up charges. Diane George was also sacked this year.
After five days of strike action Principal Paolo Ramella and the college governors have remained intransigent and refused all attempts at a negotiated settlement. NUT members have voted unanimously for another 5 days of strike action this term and 3 more at the start of next term.
wpid-wp-1434988427653.jpegCollege NUT rep Pippa Dowswell, a supporter of Left Unity, said: “We are facing a hardnosed management who want to establish an autocratic regime. They have to understand that we will not allow our representatives to be victimised in this way. Our union executive has given our strike action 100% support. If management can pick off union activists, all teachers at the college are threatened.”

Join the pickets outside George Monoux College, 190 Chingford Road E17 5AA from 7-9 am on 24 and 25 June, and 1, 2, 8 and 9 July.

Community stops eviction in Walthamstow

Yesterday a group of campaigners and neighbours successfully prevented the eviction of a family from their home in Walthamstow. Eleanor Firman, of union Unite Community issued this statement:

Today myself and my local Unite Community group along with friends and neighbours plus Focus E15 and Radical Housing Network are all pulling together to help a mother and her two young children. She has complex health needs and is being evicted by her landlord in what looks like a revenge eviction. She had gone to a rent tribunal who lowered the rent to Local Housing Allowance rates. The landlord hardly waited a month before applying for repossession. This is totally unacceptable. I live a few streets away from the family and the property is identical to mine. It’s a friendly area but every year my neighbours and others like them are thrown out – its like clockwork, its so predictable. It’s usually so the landlord can put up the rent and avoid tackling repairs. I see it every week in this neighbourhood.  Property prices have doubled since I moved here a few years ago.  I always make friends with whoever moves in next door to me and warn them about the landlord (and the damp that is never sorted out). But it’s time to stop this exploitation. Everywhere people complain about the benefits bill yet its greedy landlords that are to blame. I love the community spirit around here and it hurts that these landlords spoil this and give Walthamstow a bad name. So today we’re resisting this eviction and sending the bailiffs away so this young mum and her family have time to get help from the council.

The local Guardian newspaper covered the story here and has a video of campaigners repelling the bailiffs

Whipps Cross Hospital: PFI is not our debt, scrap it now!

from Waltham Forest Trades Council

Demonstration – 12-2pm on Wednesday June 3rd – at the gate of Whipps Cross Hospital

It’s no accident that years of privatisation in all its guises, under governments of all colours, has undermined our NHS. Private profiteering companies suck the lifeblood out of the public purse for their own gain.

Nurses suffer pay down-banding. Some porters eke out a living on zero-hour contracts. Domestics struggle on different agency rates for the same job. At the same time overpaid high-handed managers make unrealistic, even bullying, demands.

Yet, despite such difficulties the staff at Whipps Cross do a marvellous job. Their loyalty and commitment is recognized by thousands of grateful patients, and even by the CQC – at least in words.

But Whipps Cross, all its staff and everyone in our borough face a real Emergency.

The response to the critical report of the CQC and the draining of finances due to exorbitant demands of PFI contractors at the London Hospital could pose a threat to the very existence of Whipps Cross. There are rumours of a state-of-the art hub, or something – but not a General Hospital. We cannot let this happen.