Thursday, 8 August 2013

This is what working on a “zero hours” contract looks like

Years ago when I worked at Mc Donalds  all shop floor workers were on "zero hours" contracts but the use of these contracts were not as widespread as they are now and generally speaking employers like Mc D  would keep pretty quite about the subject. It's worrying to see how far we have gone in eroding the rights of the workers in this country that the employers shamelessly and openly use these contracts on mass scale to reduce their costs at the expense of the workers and consumers. More worryingly though is the general public resignation that "there is no alternative" under the current economic conditions and arguments such as "zero hours contracts are good as they provide flexibility to the employees" are not uncommon. But below is the reality of what zero hours contract mean.

Caroline is a homecare worker, and is on a “zero hours” contract

My name is Caroline, I have worked as a homecare worker for 25 years. When I first started as a homehelp i worked for the local council, I was asked how many hours I wanted to work and what time did I need to start and finish. I had set hours and a full rota of service users that I visited on a regular day and time. I had a set wage, sick pay, pension and holiday pay. I was given training and this was on going throughout my in house service. The service user was given time to have their needs met without rushing.  We had time to build up a relationship, listen to their concerns and worries so they would feel comfort in their own environment.
This was a good service.
Then about 10 years ago the local council opted out of homecare , I was tupe’d over to a non profit organisation and care workers lost their holiday pay, their sick pay, pension and had their hourly rate cut. The cuts were massive and we lost more than half of what we had. Also the service user had their time cut. For example if you 1 hour to do personnel care breakfast, this was cut to 45minutes. So we had to do the same work in less time. This meant no more time to hear their worries and concerns and having to get things ready as soon as you walked in the door.
This affected the service users as they said no one cares about them, “we can’t rush, we are old”. Then just over 2years ago we got tupe’d over to a profit making company, as the non profit lost the contract. Carers lost what little sick pay and contract hours we had.  We were put on zero contract hours, were not paid for travel time but just paid on client contact. This happened 3 months after we were tupe’d over. Once again the service user’s time was cut you now had to do personnel care breakfast in half an hour.
This has a very big impact on service users; they are rushed, they get upset and depressed and they feel no cares for them and that they are forgotten because they are old. My mum had a stroke and with the help of her local in house cares we managed to keep her in her own home. It pains me to say if she was alive today I would give up homecare to look after her as I know she would not receive the care she and all service users should have.
This should be time to care time and time to do your work as it should be done. These service users are known as vulnerable adults. How vulnerable do they have to been to get a good service? If they were children and receiving a bad service people would be up in arms because you can’t do that to children. But we do it to our elderly even though their needs are the same they need help to wash dress get their breakfast. Don’t be fooled by the word adult as you think they can cope. They can’t that’s why they need the service." from LabourList

Monday, 1 July 2013

Launch of a new community fighting force

What do you do when neo-liberal capitalism launches  unprecedented attack on the welfare state making the life of millions of us a misery, rubbing us of our hard earned cash to line the pockets of the rich, destroying the very pillars of the civil society built by the working class through years of determined struggle and the official opposition fails to stand up to the challenge? Well you start organising in  local communities to fight back! Hence the launch of Forest Unity. We had a great time on Sat 29th Jun at the very well attended inaugural party supported by local bands, artists, and local people and activists. After the election of 3 UKIP concillors in the Forest of Dean due largely to protest votes and lack of strong official opposition to the austerity and cuts, the local activists are determied to fill the gap to show there is an alternative. The message of Forest Unity is that positive change in the current climate can only come about by united effort of people against the austerity measures that take from all of us to give to those responsible for worse economic crisis since the '30s. The Tory and UKIP policies that pit poor against poor, unemployed against employed, native against immigrants, public against private sector, young against the old.... can bring nothing but disaster to local communities.

Read more about Forest Unity, its aims and activities at or see ouor Facebook page

 Tanya Palmer talked passionately about the aims and activities of Forest Unity and gave a strong message of hope through unity to victims of Con-Dem coalition's austerity policies.

There was no shortage of local bands and talents who entertained until midnight

 Thanks to a group of local residents who put so much time and effort into making this happen.

Delicious food was served by fantastic and "multi-talented" friends throughout the evening

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Peopl's Assembly: A refreshing alternative approach to politics!

Off to People's Assembly this Saturday. Can't wait. Should be refreshing to see a few speakers and a bunch of people discussing some real isses that are wrong and trying to organise an alternative to the consensus about the austerity measures and "no-alternative" approach that currently exists amongst the major political parties.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Why I voted for the Left candidate in UNISON NEC election

Here we are, the last day before the voting closes for UNISON NEC elections. It has been a bit of a difficult election for me personally so far as it has given me a bit of a dilemma about who to vote for South West region male seat. Normally my natural instincts would make me vote for the candidate of the Left , in this case Berny Parkes, without any hesitation . But this time my own branch chair, Mike Hines is standing too making the choice slightly more problematic. As we are all working towards the same goal – better working conditions, more rights for the workers, fighting austerity etc -   under normal conditions, the difference between the candidates would not be big enough to have a major impact if the vote went one way or another. But these are not normal times! We have Tory-led government which day after day blatantly weakens our rights in the work place and tramples all over the unemployed, minorities, disabled…  by any means it can – including lying and distorting facts while the opposition Labour Party vacillates on how to deal with the disastrous  consequences of Tory policies unfolding before our eyes. Given the weak state of the opposition, the role of the trade unions in fighting the government to bring about economic revival and social justice becomes hugely important.  In this context who we choose to lead our unions becomes more critical.

Reading Mike and Berny’s election statements I was disappointed not to see a more robust statement by Mike about the issue of leadership. I was also disappointed not to see any criticism of the leadership of the Labour Party. After all, this is the party that takes a big chunk of our members’ subscriptions as donation. So we, the members, are entitled to have a view about Labour’s policies and influence them or even demand to review our policy of affiliation to this party. Mike says in his statement that his membership of the Labour Party will not affect his work as a union activist, but my experience of working with him and observations of his attitude to more radical political views and activists have convinced me otherwise.  Whether working as a member of the NEC will affect this or not remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

"Who needs the cuts" a book well worth reading but falls short on political arguments and convincing alternative!

So finished the book "Who needs the Cuts" Professor Saville Kushner and his brother Barry. As expected, it is very good at drawing on historical statistical evidence, specifically of post war period to show that not only  the austerity measures of the coalition government are not necessary but they positively stop the potential growth. The book also gives a detailed description of how finance capital - banking sector - has, for decades, engaged in very dubious, immoral and near illegal practices in search of ever increasing profits at the expense of the public. The Kushnars produce evidence to show how the governments have colluded with the banks to produce conditions which puts the latter in a win-win situation so that they always make their money, whether they fail or not, at the expense of the tax payer. "Who needs the cuts" relies heavily on the Keynesian theory that growth can only be achieved by enabling the public to go out and consume. And this needs the active involvement of the government in creating jobs by investing in capital projects. This will reduce unemployment, increase disposable income, reduce poverty and... ultimately lead to further growth.
There is now indisputable and growing evidence to show that austerity has failed and despite the untold human misery that this government has unleashed, growth hasn't happened. Yet the Tory led government refuses to change course. Saville and Barry argue that the reason for this, and the whole idea of austerity, is to do entirely with Tory ideology than economic facts.

All that is good but the glaring omission throughout the book is what has happened to wages since the 70's. We know that the relative income of the majority of workers has either remained flat or actually declined in real terms in the last decades, drawing increasing number of people into a debt-dependent. This suggests strongly that the reason for consumers defaulting on their debts is the widening income gap and increasing exploitation of labour. But this book is silent about how the bad debt came about in the first place. They seem to blame this on the bad management and irresponsible decisions of bank managers and their government backers.

The second disappointing feature of this book is that despite quoting various economists from Adam Smith to Keynes, Friedman, neo-liberals and others, there is not a single mention of Marx. It is hard to imagine any serious analysis of capitalist crises without and reference to Marx, however cursory. As a result, the book seems to regard the current crisis as something of an anomaly which could have been avoided had the economy been managed properly. It does not deal with the cyclic nature of capitalist crisis and the inevitability of them. Whether Saville or Barry agree with Marx's analysis of the capitalist mode of production or not, his theory deserves serious consideration and it is odd and disappointing that the brothers have  ignored this. In a way, Saville and Barry have done what they accuse the media of. Their criticize the media for having bought and promoted the cuts and austerity narrative and not giving due exposure to alternative strand of thoughts. But similarly this book has taken capitalism as given and does not present any possible alternative to that ideology. If only it could be managed better!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Congratulations to Max Watson on being re-elected to NEC, 2013-2015

Max has been re-elected to UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) for a third time.

We need an NEC which is prepared to build an effective union which can confidently take on this government and fight back against their vicious assults on the working people, the disabled, the unemployed ... the majority of people in short! 

As far as the austerity is concerned, we ain't seen nothing yet! The cuts will shortly bite much more than they have already and the Con-Dem coalition will become more brazen with the lack of ineffective opposition. So, we need more radical left thinkers and activists to represent us, the working people, on the NEC to help us build a leadership and union that can stand the strong winds of change blowing against us. That's why I was delighted to see Max elected. He has, after all, a track record in standing firm on the union basic principles of defending the interests of the members within a transparent and democratic framework. On his blog Max writes " In 2010 I fought a successful election campaign in a by-election and shortly afterwards in 2011 I was elected unopposed. I received nine branch nominations in 2010, then 19 in 2011. This year I received 15 branch nominations and no other candidate was able to muster the two branch nominations required to stand against me.


Last month I fought for my own job and won reinstatement. I'm extremely grateful for all the support I received then and glad not to have to fight an election now as a lot of work needs to be done fighting the Tories and their friends (such as the management of London Met) who are dismantling the welfare state and attacking the poor; they are privatising the public sector or cutting it down to the bone; and they are victimizing union reps when they fight back.

So thanks to all those who supported my election campaign again this year, and to those who fought to stop London Met from sacking me and two of my colleagues. There is still a disciplinary against me, so maybe see you on the 17th?
please now put all your efforts into getting Tomasa Bullen elected onto the HE Female seat and for all the left candidates standing for the NEC.

Good luck with your efforts Max

Read Max's manifesto