We can’t Afford not to Invest in a Better Society.

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How we Afford a Better Society – and How to Recognise it

When someone asks you , “How can we afford to spend more on our public services”, the simple answer is, “We can’t afford not to.”

Every day we see the effects of austerity policies, from boarded-up, depressing High Streets, poverty, and hungry children to decimated public services. We can’t go on like this.

Austerity was always a political ploy, unnecessary, and intentionally cruel, and it is a policy which propels us  further in a downward gloomy spiral. No one really benefits, no one is really happy in an increasingly divided society, where the only solution is to blame one another, where in reality we are all missing out, from what society could be.

And the only way out of this is to invest in our society towards better lives for us all.

We are not short of labour, resources or land in order to invest in a society in which we can thrive, where people can live fulfilled lives. But people are without jobs, land and property is underused, held back by those in power, because it suits the Tory, capitalist philosophy, where it creates division, competition, greed – and ultimately war and hate too. And rich pickings for the very few.

We just need the political will to rebuild, to build a better society.

The government has the ability – and responsibility – to release money into the economy right now to get our economy moving efficiently again.

As a sovereign state, the UK government controls its own currency, and can release as much as it needs, and so it should. It’s not like a household budget waiting for payday. I imagine the flow of currency like running a bath, you can run as much as you need, then turn off the tap when you’ve enough. And rather like a bath with an overflow, excess funds can be drawn off – and that’s where taxation comes in, preventing inflation, but in a fair, balanced way so that everyone is benefitting from the investment in the new and better society, and everyone is that bit happier.

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The state’s currency is indeed the People’s money, but not ‘taxpayer’s’ because we don’t need to pay tax to use it. It’s there already. Money can be created by a computer keyboard whenever the government chooses to. Tax is not needed to pay for resources, because tax results from previous government spending, and is a way of ensuring a fair distribution.

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When adequate money is circulating in the economy it doesn’t stay hidden away. People spend, and so it means more jobs, and so what comes around, is shared around. Like cycles in nature, water or carbon cycles, money circulates as it makes things happen. In a successful economy, no person or place is left behind. Poverty is unacceptable, and it is avoidable.

A better society is one which puts people first, is sustainable, where every person can reach their potential, to learn, to enjoy leisure time, to enjoy good health and a good home.

We can envisage a society where everyone is caring for one another, everyone can contribute and participate, rather than blaming one another for the ills of a society caused by a flawed economy, backed only by the myth that funds are non existent. And this vision can be realised by a Labour government, determined to ensure an economy which really works for the many, not the few.

This was realised by the 1945 Labour government after the war, when despite the ravages of war, and rationing, there was investment in people, providing an NHS, homes for all and the welfare state, providing a safety net for all of us in times of misfortune. It was possible then because people came together with a strong will to build a better society. The people had seen the effects of divided people, greed, and mistrust. People came together by a united will for peace. And it worked. A whole generation benefitted from opportunities never seen before in their families.

The right wing media frequently use a Shock Doctrine to keep people fearful and divided. Deprivation and fear can mean people look to blame each other rather than see it is caused by the flawed and unjust system and so hold back from change . This is why scare tactics are used by the wealthy establishment, reinforced by the right wing media who repeat the same adages so often they believe them to be true.

But as we have seen, out of adversity, out of fear and desperation, comes a determination to change society for the better for us all. We cannot afford to carry on with an economy which is leaving people homeless, dying on our streets, leaving children hungry. We cannot afford an economy which benefits the few, and not the many.

 

At Labour Party Conference 2017, Naomi Klein said:

“Moments of crisis do not have to go the Shock Doctrine route – they do not need to become opportunities for the already obscenely wealthy to grab still more.

They can also go the opposite way.

They can be moments when we find our best selves….. when we locate reserves of strength and focus we never knew we had.

We see it at the grassroots level every time disaster strikes.

We all witnessed it in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower catastrophe.”

When we witness the potential of humanity, of hope and determination, we know we can achieve a better society.  We can afford a better society, and to make better use resources at our disposal.

There is so much potential in the people of Britain, and of the wider world.

We can’t afford not to use it. We can’t afford to waste any more lives.

SHOCK – Public Sector Employment Share Lowest for Seventy Years 

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SHOCK GMB FIGURES SHOW PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYMENT SHARE NOW AT LOWEST LEVEL FOR 70 YEARS

Today’s Conservatives seem intent on dragging us back to the dark days before the NHS was founded

GMB, the union for public sector workers, has published figures that show public sector employment as a share of the labour market has fallen to a seventy year low.

Official figures released this week show that 16.9 per cent of workers were employed in the public sector in June – a 0.1 per cent fall on the previous quarter.

This is the lowest share since the ONS’s current records began in 1999 – and historic Bank of England data reveals it is the lowest share since 1947, the year before the NHS was founded. [1]

Even under Margaret Thatcher the public sector’s share of employment did not fall below 20 per cent.

Just under a million public jobs have been lost since 2010 due to funding cuts, privatisation and outsourcing.

The majority of the jobs lost have been in local government. [2]

A new GMB report published this week argued Government’s review of public sector pay policy is ignoring the 55 per cent of public sector worker who are not covered by a Pay Review Body, such as local government workers and school support staff

Thre report also reveals:

.· Central Government has removed an estimated £5 billion from local authority budgets in order to enforce the pay cap across the whole public sector;

· As recruitment and retention challenges mount, the cost of agency and temporary workers has increased by £2.5 billion since 2012/13. By contrast, the Treasury estimated that the cap would save £2.2 billion in 2017/18 – raising the prospect that the cap is not saving any money at all;

· On average, PCSOs (who are not covered by the new pay award for police officers) are set to lose £9,580 in real-terms by 2020 due to the pay cap. [3]

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:

“These shocking figures are a stark reminder of the scale of the catastrophe that befalling our public services.

“Any sensible opportunities for efficiencies are long gone – funding reductions are now cutting into sheer bone.

“GMB’s members are performing miracles but the vital services they deliver are being stripped-back and hollowed-out and denied the resources they need, and workers are being denied the fair pay rises they deserve.

“We should celebrate the fact that people are living longer, but if services don’t get additional funding then crises of provision are inevitable. That breaking point has already arrived in the NHS and social care.

“Seventy years ago the Labour Government of Attlee and Nye Bevan created cherished public services that have improved and saved millions of lives.

“Today’s Conservatives seem intent on dragging us back to the dark days of the past instead.

“Enough is enough. We need to properly fund public services so they can cope with sharply rising demand, and real pay rises for the heroes in the workforce who sacrifice so much and are being denied the reasonable standard of living they deserve.”

Contact: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at press.office@gmb.org.uk
[1] ONS, Public sector employment UK statistical bulletin: June 2017, published 13 September 2017:https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/publicsectorpersonnel/bulletins/publicsectoremployment/june2017

Bank of England, A millennium of macroeconomic data, table A.51, updated 31 April 2017: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/research/Pages/datasets/default.aspxSee also the complete table in note 5.

[2] Figures from the ONS June 2017 public sector employment statistical bulletin:Changes to public sector employment (headcount) by classification, seasonally adjusted (thousands) 

YEAR Central government Local Government Total General Government Total public corporations Total public sector Of which: Civil Service

2010 2819 2908 5727 670 6397 517

2017 3021 2115 5136 304 5440 423

       
Year  Central gov  Local Gov. Total general government  Total public corporations.  Total public sector.  Of which:Civil  Service

[3] GMB, End the Public Sector Pay Pinch – Public Sector Pay and the Forgotten Three Million, 13 September 2017: https://thinkleftdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/2cda8-paypinchreport2-finalspreads.pdf

[4] Changes to public sector demand levels identified by GMB:

 Adults aged over 80* 2,854,694  (2010) , 3,170,900 (2017)  Change. +  11.10%

Monthly A&E attendances** 1,752,381 (2010),  1,924,103 (2017) Change + 9.80%

Pupils in state-funded schools *** 6,929,000 (2010) , 7,490,000 (2017) Change + 8.10%

* Figures for the UK in 2010 and 2016 – the latest year for which figures are available.
** Total attendances in the month of August in England
*** Figures for England

ONS, Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 22 June 2017: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/populationestimatesforukenglandandwalesscotlandandnorthernireland

NHS England, A&E Attendances and Emergency Admissions (timeseries), updated 14 September 2017: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ae-waiting-times-and-activity/ae-attendances-and-emergency-admissions-2017-18/

[5] Public sector employment as a share of the overall workforce – 1937 to 2017 

(data sources given in note 1):
Year.      Public sector share of employment % 


                                                                                     

Overworked Ambulance Staff forced to take 80,000 sick days due to stress.

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GMB INVESTIGATION REVEALS OVERWORKED FRONTLINE AMBULANCE STAFF FORCED TO TAKE 80,000 SICK DAYS DUE TO STRESS
Twelve per cent of all paramedics and ambulance health care assistants in England were sick due to stress or anxiety last year.
GMB, the union for ambulance staff, has revealed 12 per cent of all ambulance staff were forced to take a total of more than 80,000 sick days due to stress last year. A total of 2,468 paramedics and health care assistants – or one in eight workers – had to take time off due to stress. The total number of days lost across England was 81,668 on the financial year 2016/17.
The shocking figures come from a series of Freedom of Information requests sent by GMB to all ten Ambulance Trusts in England. In two of the trusts – East Midlands Ambulance and North East Ambulance – a shocking 23 per cent and 22 per cent of frontline staff took sick days due to stress. [See note 1 for regional breakdown].
GMB is campaigning for the paramedic retirement age to be equalised with other physically demanding front-line emergency service roles, such as police officers and firefighters who are able to retire at 60.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer, said:
“These disturbing figures once again prove what we already know – that our frontline ambulance workers are in the midst a stress and anxiety epidemic.

“They are consistently overworked, underpaid and expected to do incredibly difficult jobs – such as dealing with the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster or Manchester bombings – without adequate staff or resources. “It’s no wonder almost 12 per cent of the whole workforce is sick with stress.

“Theresa May needs to stop buying her head in the sand and start listening to front-line ambulance workers.

“Workforce numbers haven’t kept pace with sharply rising demand.

“Forcing ambulance staff to work up to the age of 68 is another major cause of stress. There’s no justification for treating paramedics differently to comparable physically demanding front-line roles.

“The absences caused by staff shortages and overwork are already contributing to potential delays in the attending incidents.

“The absence of staff due to stress will only compound this situation.

“If any patients lose their lives as a result, the blame falls fairly and squarely on an uncaring Tory Government for not dealing with stress and anxiety of our frontline emergency staff.

“It’s time paramedics and other ambulance staff workers got the support they deserve.”

[1] Paramedic and other ambulance staff absences due to stress, anxiety and related conditions in 2016/17
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iGMB asked Ambulance Trusts to provide “details of how many of your paramedics and emergency care assistants have taken time of work due to stress in the financial year 2016 – 2017.”
Employment totals for the financial year 2016/17 are taken from the March 2017 ‘Organisation Tables’ of NHS England’s NHS Workforce Statistics – March 2017 publication: http://www.content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB24214

 

 

Asbestos Alert – Crisis is Looming

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Health and Safety Legislation is not ‘Red Tape’ – or unnecessary bureaucracy as David Cameron has claimed, as he boasted he intended to remove it. Removal of vital health and safety legislation, cuts to public funding and an inability to keep building regulations were factors leading to the Grenfell fire which shocked so many of us. But for that awful tragedy, many of us would still be unaware of the risks caused by ‘Red Tape’. It is imperative that professional expert advice and adequate funding is made available for public buildings, homes and workplaces to be safe.

Now is not the time for complacency. The biggest killer in the workplace is asbestos.

In June, Unite reported that the Conservative Brexit negotiations could put the safety of children, workers and parents at risk of mesothelioma as a result of weakening of health and safety legislation.

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has revealed that newly appointed Brexit minister Steve Baker MP, has lobbied the government to weaken asbestos laws. Unite is demanding that the government now provide ‘cast-iron guarantees’ that asbestos regulations won’t be watered down.

Much of the existing legislation, which bans the use of asbestos and controls how the substance is removed, is governed by European Union legislation. Mr Baker’s appointment raises concerns that when the so-called ‘Great Reform Bill’ becomes law, he will be able to use his position to weaken asbestos laws, bypassing effective parliamentary scrutiny.

The three main types of asbestos – blue, brown and white asbestos – can still be found in the workplace. There is no safe level of exposure and all types are dangerous. (TUC guidelines) Unison provide a useful Q and A information  sheet, available here.

Widespread use of asbestos in schools, and the failure for this to be removed because of poorly maintained buildings and underfunding over decades now leaves a crisis and more lives at risk.

Earlier this year the NUT invited members to complete an on-line survey for management of asbestos. The NUT Asbestos Survey Report is shown here. Not everyone responded to the survey, but there is overwhelming support  calling for the government to commit to a phased removal of asbestos from schools.

Shockingly, nearly 50% of all respondents had not been told whether their school contains asbestos. This is concerning given that the majority of schools (86%) do contain asbestos. Less than 5% of respondents had been told that their school did not contain asbestos; therefore the majority of respondents either knew that asbestos was present in their school, or had not been told either way.

  • Of the 46% of respondents who had been told that their school contained asbestos:
  • Half had not been told where the asbestos was located. If staff are not given this information they cannot take steps to avoid disturbing it and they are at risk of exposure, as are pupils.
  • Nearly 75% said that the asbestos was in accessible locations, such as floors, ceilings, and window frames. Schools are unlike the majority of other workplaces in that the majority of their occupants are children, who engage in normal but boisterous behaviours that are likely to disturb asbestos.  It is known that children are more at risk because of the long latency period of asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma.
  • Three quarters said that staff had not been provided with asbestos awareness training.
  • Only 2% of respondents said that parents had been given information about the presence of asbestos in the school.
  • The majority of respondents (85%) had not been shown their school’s asbestos management plan.
  • Over three quarters were aware of incidents of potential asbestos exposure in their school.
  • Nearly half of all respondents were unaware of Health and Safety Executive advice that no World War One or Two gas masks should be worn or handled in schools because of the potential risk of asbestos exposure. Nearly 100 respondents said that such gas masks were still worn or handled in their school, with some respondents reporting that they had been used recently on school visits.

On the 4th July, a Joint Union Asbestos Committee ( JUAC) held its first national conference.

Management of inspections in schools must be informed, comprehensive and safe. One teacher in the UK is dying each month. The video clip demonstrates the NUT questionnaire was inadequate, referring to inspections in SE England.  In the SE only a handful were inspected, and there were problems in all.

The information here collates UK schools which contain asbestos, but this is not complete, but shows the scale of the problem as 86% of schools in this study contact asbestos. This does not mean other schools are safe.

As there is a mass academisation of schools as they move away from Local Authority Control, there is a concern that expert advice and knowledge is not at hand leaving schools isolated. Furthermore cuts to funding, involvement in private companies with conflicting interests adds to concerns. There is no place for competition between schools who strive to make profits for Academy chains.

We need transparency about asbestos in our schools and public buildings. This is a very grave and dangerous issue. The DfE has said that  legislation “does not require schools to inform parents about the presence of asbestos in their children’s school.”

The Labour Party Manifesto makes plans for increased funding in schools, while redressing the historical underfunding in some schools and will invest in new schools, including the phased removal of asbestos in existing schools. All schools will be democratically accountable including appropriate controls to ensure they serve the public interest.

The Labour Party Manifesto rejects the “Great Repeal Bill”, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.