Builders union rejects NI border as unworkable

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Builders slam hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, says FMB
 

A hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be damaging to the NI construction sector, according to new research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). 

Key findings from the research include:

• Over half of construction SMEs in NI said a hard border between NI and the Republic would have a negative impact on purchasing products and materials from the Republic;

• Almost half of NI construction SMEs purchase building materials or products from the Republic and almost one third employ people who are based across the border;

• Just under 40% of construction SMEs in NI said a hard border between NI and the Republic would have a negative impact on their ability to employ people from across the border; 

• One in three NI builders have had their margins squeezed on projects since the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum due to its impact on material prices;

• Almost a quarter of NI construction SMEs have said the depreciation of sterling has threatened the financial well-being of their business following the EU referendum. 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Our research clearly shows that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would dampen growth among construction SMEs. What we’re calling for today is a return to the pre-1973 arrangement that saw the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland. There are more than 200 roads that criss-cross between NI and the Republic and up to 35,000 people commute from one side to the other every day. Your typical NI construction firm transports materials, products and labour from the Republic into Northern Ireland on a regular basis and anything that interferes with their ability to do that quickly and easily must be dealt with sensitively. Indeed, almost one third of NI construction firms employ people who are based across the border and over half think a hard border would have a negative impact on purchasing products and materials from the Republic.”

Berry concluded: “Brexit is already making its presence felt in Northern Ireland with builders feeling the pinch since material prices have risen following the depreciation of sterling after the EU referendum. Indeed, more than a third of NI builders have reported that their margins have been squeezed since the EU vote last summer. Let’s remember that the construction industry is central to the health of the NI economy. The construction sector employs around 65,000 people and has an output of £2.4bn per annum in NI alone. Furthermore, it’s an enabling industry as without it, we won’t be able to deliver the new homes, roads, schools and hospitals that Northern Ireland so desperately needs.”

 Rory Reagan, Director of Regan Building Contractors, said: “A hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would make the day-to-day running of my business much more difficult. My firm employs individuals from the Republic and my fear is that they will find themselves in long queues at border check points every morning. I also worry about the impact a border will have on my firm’s ability to purchase materials from the Republic. My hope is that the EU, UK and the Republic of Ireland will manage to negotiate a post-Brexit border agreement that provides for the status quo.”

The movement grows – join us.

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Lee R Nixon: Jeremy Corbyn has done an incredible thing.

From the moment he was thrust unwillingly into the limelight as party leader, he began building a movement. Initially, he was dismissed by the right wing as a joke. After all, few people living had ever witnessed a genuinely compassionate, socialist leader of the Labour Party and they assumed it was an unsustainable aberration. It wouldn’t last. He has no experience, they thought. Toppling him will be easy, they thought. One puff of wind will blow this scruffy upstart away, they thought. But they were wrong.

It quickly became apparent that this gently spoken old man was not as vulnerable as he appeared. His roots were deep and unmovable. No mere draft of hot air from the right was going to topple him. So it was that the entire right wing establishment began to recognise him for the threat he was.

Not a threat to national security, or the economy, though they would spin it thus, but a threat to their gravy train; to their extortion of workers; to their laundering of tax money into their own pockets and, for some at least, to their erstwhile immunity to investigations of corruption and war crimes.

And so the storm began. It started with attempts to misrepresent his past actions, accusations of sympathy for terrorism, which were easily debunked by the winner of two major peace prizes.

The right wing in his own party attempted to portray him as unelectable, even though their attempt was an indication that they believed anything but. Many bought into that deceit, but the movement was growing and the movement had their say in the ensuing leadership election. Just like his Islington constituents, the Labour Party membership confirmed their faith in their democratically elected leader.

They tried to brand Corbyn’s supporters as a personality cult, perhaps misreading the enthusiasm of the left for at last finding representation, but more likely not even caring for facts. But the movement grew.

More and more, the demographic of his supporters belied the idea they were all hard-left trotskyists, as grannies and mothers, nurses and teachers and others turned up at rallies, waving placards and adding their voice to the rest.

Early on, the right-wing establishment-led media got on board with the constant smear campaigns. Were it not for social media, their stranglehold on news reporting might have stopped the movement in its tracks. But people could lift the propaganda curtain and peer behind.

People saw videos of tens of thousands marching in London, bringing the city to a standstill, supporting the NHS, challenging the Tories, chanting “Justice for Grenfell!” They saw it and were astounded when it was suppressed by the media – even by our publicly-owned broadcaster, the BBC. The movement grew.

Then came the accusations of antisemitism – a smear proven to have been dreamt up by a right wing cabal who cared far more about toppling Corbyn than about addressing antisemitism.

Indeed, the despicable weaponisation of this sensitive issue demonstrated a total lack of concern for the victims of genuine racism, given how their cheap political stunt would inevitably undermine genuine attempts to address it.

It was a crass move but the right wing believed it was a powerful one – so powerful that they thought they could blatantly discuss the mechanism of their smear, boasting that they would use the weaponisation of antisemitism to topple Corbyn, making no pretence at any other objective.

But once again, they were wrong. People started to see the smears for what they were. People are now seeing them for what they are. The more ridiculous the smears get, the more support Corbyn receives. The right-wing’s much vaunted coup de grace has missed its mark.

The movement grows.

Mad Friday reveals last year 900,000 ambulance calls answered without paramedics

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GMB investigation on ‘Mad Friday’ reveals 900,000 ambulance emergency calls were answered without paramedics last year.

Information from GMB has exposed the critical shortage of ambulance staff as a result of government policy has resulted in almost one million ambiance calls responded to without trained  paramedics. As a result of austerity, lack of investment in public services, stress to public sector employees, pay-caps, and moves to privatise the NHS, evidence shows service levels are unsafe and wholly inadequate.

Police forced to take patients to hospital due to shortages in more than 1,000 incidents of 999 ambulance calls

On the day dubbed ‘Mad Friday’, an investigation by GMB, the union for ambulance staff, reveals at least 900,000 emergency calls for ambulances were not attended by a paramedic in England last year.

And in more than 1,000 confirmed cases trusts were forced to ask the police to take injured patients to hospital due to ambulance shortages. The real figure is likely to be as high as 5,000.

‘Mad Friday’ – the last Friday before Christmas – is one of the busiest days of the year for amulance staff as many people celebrate finishing work for the festive period.

GMB submitted a freedom of information (FoI) request to all 10 ambulance trusts in England asking: ‘How many 999 calls to your trust were attended only by emergency care assistants, or other non-fully qualified paramedics rather than with a fully-qualified paramedic in the financial year 2016/17?’

The nine responding trusts disclosed that there were a total of 882,465 incidents last year.

However, the true figure is likely to be significantly higher as East of England Ambulance Services refused to respond, claiming it would take them too long to find the information.

South East Coast Ambulance Service had the highest number of non-paramedic responses with 190,813 incidents.

North East ambulance service’s response revealed 155,902 incidents, of which 650 were in response to the most life-threatening ‘Red One’ calls.

The trust also revealed 887 incidents where the police took patients to hospital due to a shortage of ambulance staff.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said:

“It will send shockwaves through the country that hundreds of thousands of patients, some of them involved in life-threatening incidents, are not being attended by a trained paramedic.

“Proper support for our overstretched ambulance services is literally a matter of life and death.

“GMB members are performing miracles every day but the system is failing because funding just hasn’t kept pace with demand.

“Paramedics and other ambulance staff regularly work 12-hour shifts or longer. They have no more to give.

“This must be a wake-up call for Jeremy Hunt.

“It is vital that our ambulance services are given the additional resources they desperately need.”

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer for Ambulance Staff, said:

“How many people will die this Christmas because the Chancellor refuses to properly fund our ambulance services?

“Is anyone in this Government prepared to apologise to the patients given inadequate care by over stretched and under-trained staff?

“Is anyone in this Government prepared to apologise to the families of those who die because of staff shortages? I bet not.”

[1] Results of GMB Freedom of Information Request to NHS Ambulance Trusts in England:

[2] The National Audit Office found in January 2017 that in the 2010 – 2015 Parliament funding for ambulance services rose by 16 per cent but demand rose by 30 per cent:“Increased funding for urgent and emergency activity has not matched rising demand, and future settlements are likely to be tougher. Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, income for ambulance trusts’ urgent and emergency care activity increased by 16% from £1.53 billion to £1.78 billion. Over this period, activity (ambulance calls and NHS 111 transfers) rose by 30%. Commissioners have warned that, given current financial challenges in the wider health service, future funding settlements are likely to be tighter (paragraph 1.12).”National Audit Office, NHS Ambulance Services, 26 January 2017, page 7: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/nhs-ambulance-services/

 

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.