EU-wide campaign to make Trade/Investment Policies work for People not Corporations

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Over 50 civil society groups demand a paradigm shift in EU trade and investment policies

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Corporate Europe Observatory – Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU – November 26th 2013

Note: CEO is a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

Today, a European alliance of over 50 civil society organisations will launch the Alternative Trade Mandate, a proposal to make EU trade and investment policy work for people and the planet, not just the profit interests of a few.  The launch is taking place as EU trade ministers and the European Commission are leaving for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in Bali next week.

“The current trade and investment regime, imposed by the EU and the WTO, isn’t working. Prising markets open for global agri-business is wiping out small farmers and is a major cause of hunger. The deregulation of financial services through free trade agreements impedes tough regulation of the financial sector, paving the way for the next disastrous financial crisis. We need to break away from this corporate driven agenda,” says Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament, who is in Brussels to support the launch of the Alternative Trade Mandate.

The new 20-page mandate proposes that core principles such as human and labour rights and environmental protection should drive EU trade policy.  On several areas, such as food, work, money and raw materials, detailed proposals for change are outlined.  One proposal is for the EU to become more self-sufficient in protein and oil crops as alternatives to imports of (genetically-modified) soybeans, palm oil and agrofuels, which are devastating for the environment and small farmers in the global south.  The mandate also calls on the EU to hold European corporations accountable for human rights violations, environmental destruction, tax avoidance and tax evasion elsewhere.

The mandate also proposes a new process for initiating, negotiating and finalising trade and investment agreements, giving national Parliaments and civil society a stronger role and thereby rolling back policy-capture by big business.

“EU trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors in the interests of a few rich corporations. The people who are affected by these deals have never been asked what they really need. We want an open and democratic process, controlled by the people of Europe and their elected representatives, rather than unelected technocrats and corporate lobby groups,” says Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

The proposals outlined in the Alternative Trade Mandate were developed in a four-year process, with public workshops held all over Europe and which engaged a wide range of civil society groups from both within and outside the EU.

series of papers with more detailed proposals on several pressing issues accompanies the main text.  The proposals will form the basis of an EU-wide campaign to make trade and investment work for people and the environment, which will first focus on the European elections next May, asking parliamentary candidates to pledge support for the Alternative Trade Mandate.

“At a time of multiple global crises, the European Parliament needs MEPs who will stand up for trade rules that work for people and the planet. We need MEPs who will bring trade deals out of the shadows and into the light. We call on MEP candidates to stand up for democratic trade and investment rules that serve people, the economy and the environment at large – not just the profit interests of a few,” says Amélie Canonne, co-ordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

The Alternative Trade Mandate will be launched in Brussels during an assembly this afternoon, where speakers from the global south, crisis-struck countries in Europe, trade unions, migrant groups and the European Parliament will comment on the proposals.  Tomorrow, a “walk of resistance and alternatives” will take place through the EU quarter.

For more information visit: http://www.alternativetrademandate.org

Resources:

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See also:

Leaked European Commission PR strategy: “Communicating on TTIP”

This is a leaked version of the European Commission’s communication strategy for overcoming public skepticism about the controversial EU-US trade negotiations, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  Its aim is to “reduce fears and avoid a mushrooming of doubts”..  but (perhaps unsurprisingly) knowing that, they have set up a ‘communication strategy’, serves to increase anxiety levels rather than reassure.

 

When is an economic recovery Not an economic recovery? – When It’s Based on Slave Labour!

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When is an economic recovery Not an economic recovery? – When It’s Based on Slave Labour! 

From Gracie Samuels

Before people get carried away and the Conservative government enter meltdown over this perceived recovery they should take the words of their leader the prime minister to heart and “calm down dears”.

A so-called economic “recovery” built on the backs of slave labour (workfare), zero hour contracts, consumer credit and an over inflating housing bubble, is not an economic recovery it is an economic deception!

On first looks the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR)  raising its growth forecasts by approximately 0.3%  for the UK for 2013 and 2014 it could have been construed as tentative good news, but is it? Unfortunately I believe the answer is no and I say this for several reasons which I will explain, but realise this, Osborne and Cameron and their supporters in big business will not tell you because they do not want you to know, they would prefer you to go on believing their tissue of lies. One such lie, we were told when the economy either flat-lined on contracted that such a small percentage of around 0.3% doesn’t matter – if it didn’t matter then, why does  such a small percentage of growth matter now, especially on the back of months of flat-lining and contractions? If Osborne and his Tory doning friends in the financial sector maintain that the chancellor losing the triple A rating “doesn’t matter”, then why did George Osborne stake his economical reputation on retaining the country’s AAA credit status?

Britain’s recovery is dependent upon the financial sector and the service sector, consumer spending and the housing market. Currently consumers are on a spending spree financed by credit card spending and expensive credit from payday loan companies. They are being tempted into spending by retailers offering huge discounts and the only way these discounts can be offered is if manufacturers sell to retailers at reduced costs and the only way manufacturers can offer these reduced costs is by keeping the cost of their labour artificially low. They cannot keep the cost of their raw materials low because the chancellor has slapped 20% VAT on them, so cutting labour costs is the easiest option

A lasting sustainable economic recovery can only be built on solid foundations on proper risked assessed credit and spending from disposable income and savings etc and from people hired in real jobs, with regular dependable incomes. It may be old fashioned, but it is the only way,  consumer spending based on expensive credit and people using credit cards and payday loans to meet their household bills each month is neither lasting or sustainable.

Just like in the 2008 crash, at some point people will reach the end of their credit road and be unable to keep switching from one credit card company to another and will be faced with paying back thousands of pounds of debt. Expensive loans from payday loan companies will always in the end implode on the consumer, borrowing money to buy so-called discounted goods is not economically viable, not for the consumer, the retailer or the manufacturer.

It’s a vicious circle in which the low paid, the poor, the vulnerable and the unemployed are being forced by the Tory government and their Tory doning friends in big business to fund this faux economic recovery!
Manufacturers keep their costs down not by the chancellor, George Osborne doing the right thing by lowering VAT and employer and employee NI, fuel and energy costs etc, they keep their costs down by:

  • Driving down wages
  • Driving down living standards
  • Removing workers rights
  • Sacking full-time staff and employing low paid part-time workers
  • Abusing zero hour contracts
  • Using taxpayer funded slave *workfare* labour Government underpinning all the above practices by cutting benefits; imposing a £1,200 charge for an unfair dismissal tribunal and removing the right to legal aid.
  • These practices are not only prevalent in the manufacturing sector, they are now prevalent across all sectors.

This situation in the British economy is as dangerous as the practices that led to the crash in 2008, in fact, they are probably even more dangerous, as the long term damage being done to industry and employment is virtually irreparable!

When nearly all the British workforce is hired on zero hour contracts in the future (and this is what it will come to) how are they going to have the confidence, or the proof of a steady regular income to spend in the economy or be granted a mortgage or a loan? Which bank or building society will  offer workers on zero hour contracts mortgages or loans? Answer – none! Further, if in future so many people will be hired on zero hour contracts what will happen to the tax receipts that the chancellor depends upon to keep the economy going? People on zero hour contracts will probably pay little or no tax and there is a huge propensity for an explosion of black market labour!

Our whole economy is not so much teetering on the edge, it has actually gone over the cliff and is hanging on by a thread and it is George Osborne who has pushed it over the edge!

Two thirds of GDP (economic growth)  is caused by consumer spending, for the economy to sustain this growth needs to based on solid consumer spending from savings and or disposable income from people in regular jobs with regular incomes, not reliant on consumer spending based on nil savings and maxed out the credit cards! at the moment people are merrily switching balances from one set of credit cards to other credit cards this is unsustainable, sooner or late the whole thing will catch up with people they will begin to default on their payments and the problems will begin ie another credit crunch!  Have you noticed how many advertisements for credit cards and payday loan companies are suddenly appearing on TV and in papers and magazines etc? It is exactly what took place pre 2008!

Steady and real consumer confidence and sustainable spending comes from people who feel safe and *are* safe and secure in their jobs, confidence does not come from people borrowing on expensive credit to buy in artificially reduced priced goods and services, this is a false economy and sooner or later this false economic recovery will come to a juddering halt and the true extent of government and corporate deception will hit families across this country like a tonne of bricks!.

How can a proper economic recovery take place when a rising number households  are seeing their standard of living fall dramatically, their outgoings rise sharply and are desperately struggling to pay their household bills, and whereby most people would struggle to pay an unexpected bill of £300?

Many families’ are resorting paying their bills and even their rent or mortgages with their credit cards, this is unsustainable in the short, medium and long term! Families’ debt levels are now at their worst for over two-and-a-half years, where does this fit in with this so-called “economic recovery”?

Average household debt has risen sharply from just over £9,000 a year ago to £12,834, including an average of £2,011 borrowed from friends and family, £2006 heaped onto credit cards and £1,959 in personal loans. To make matters even worse inflation is now rising again.

According to the Office National Statistics the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation from 2.4% in April , to 2.7% in May.
The Retail Prices Index (RPI) which includes housing costs etc, rose from 2.9% in April to 3.1% in May.

Low interest rates have helped to push the cost of borrowing down, but  this doesn’t tell the full story; one in 20 (5%) of families have said they are relying on expensive payday loans to get by on and one in 33 (3%) are using pawnbrokers and buyback shops and many thousands of people have already sold their gold and silver jewelry to help  to try and manage their household budgets.

So not only do we have a so called economic recovery underpinned by slave Labour, the low waged, zero hour contracts and an over inflating housing bubble and cuts to people’s benefits, we also have a situation where the poorest most vulnerable people in society are now being forced to maintain the recovery in the financial sector by taking out expensive payday loans and using credit cards to pay their household bills.

Inflation is on the rise and if it keeps rising there will be a call for the new Governor of the Bank of England to raise interest rates to try and cool it off, if this happens people’s mortgages, loans and credit card repayments will also rise placing a further drag on the standard of living, which is already falling. If he doesn’t raise interest rates to curb inflation people’s standards of living will be eroded still further and once again it will fall onto the poorest in society to pay for the economic recovery of the rich. But this will have consequences, there are more poor than rich, and the poor spend their money while the rich tend to put theirs in offshore accounts, so this will add to less consumer spending and will in the end have a negative effect on the economy.

Some banks this week have published profits, however, this is not profit because the banks have made money, this is profit made from the sacking thousands of people and the shedding of assets. If the banks are not making proper profits how are they going to lend for mortgages and businesses? An added stress is that the banks now need to hold large amounts of high-quality assets as “liquidity buffers” of safe securities that they can sell in the event of a repeat of the 2008 run on the banks and they are struggling to do this. If the banks are not making the profits they will be unable to meet the “war chest” requirements, so how will they loan to people asking for mortgages, loans and business loans?

What has also helped to buck the economy is the chancellor’s “Help to Buy” scheme, this is a scheme whereby the chancellor is overriding the banks and building societies (who for  their own reason do not want to loan money) and subsidising the private sector with loans underwritten by the British taxpayer. (If government were to do this with the public sector the furore and noise from the right wing press would be enormous), The Help to Buy scheme will cause an over inflation of house prices, which is already starting to happen. Today the Halifax house price index found prices in the three months to July were 4.6% higher than in the same period in 2012. The chancellor is fuelling a housing market price bubble which cannot be sustained and when the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme is due to come to an end in three years time, where is this suddenly going to leave the housing market? The likelihood of this is that this will tip us into a further recession (if we are not already in one). We do not need the chancellor bucking the housing market like this, we need to see social housing built, where people with properly paid jobs be able people to have a decent place to live where they will be able to save for a deposit on a house and then step onto the property ladder, in a real and sustainable way thus freeing a council house for someone else and also helping to properly invigorate the housing market.
This is what used to happen and this is part of the way back to good steady economic recovery and health, what the chancellor is doing is sticking gaffer tape over a severed mains and hoping it will all hold until  after the next election.

People are currently buying property with the help of a loan underwritten by the taxpayer. Instead of having to find a 20% deposit, people need only find a 5% deposit the rest will be underwritten by the taxpayer. This is a way the chancellor has found to subsidise the private construction sector with taxpayers money. It is thwart with potential problems, the government loan must be repaid when the property is eventually sold, so if the people buying a house now want to move in 2 years time, they have to find the money to repay the government on top of what it costs to sell and buy another property! Currently after 5 years the loan repayment will attract a fee of 1.75%, which will rise annually by RPI inflation plus 1%. So if RPI inflation rises (as it has just done by from 2.9% in April to 3.1% in May) then the cost of what people must repay the government also rises. if the economy falters and housing prices fall, then people are going to find themselves in negative equity very quickly.

If a person loses their job and can only find a zero hour contract position, this will affect their ability to be granted a mortgage, or another mortgage should they be wanting to sell their property and move on. Here is a prediction (and by the way I predicted the 2008 crash in 2005)

What George Osborne is doing is taking a 1000 – 1 gamble with the economy and financial health and work of the people of this country and at some point, sooner or later the whole kit and kaboodle will crash down around our ears and he and zero hours contracts will crash the British economy head on into a brick wall!

Bucking the housing market and offering toxic loans which in the end people cannot pay back is part of what caused the global economic crash in the first place, it appears that George Osborne has learned absolutely nothing.

We are told by the over excited right wing Tory supporting press that the “feel good factor” has returned and the chancellor is telling us that the economy is on the mend.

Let’s see how good people feel as we leave summer head into winter with the cost of gas and electricity and water set to rise sharply  and families food bills set to reach a 12.1% rise by the end of the year. Grocery bills have already soared by £357 a year, plunging more families into food poverty. The cost of staples is soaring, bread has risen by 10p per loaf and potatoes risen by 246% to £326 a tonne in a year! A food poverty report carried out for Kellogg’s revealed that last year 280,000 families turned to food banks for help, that is a rise of 400% in just over four years.

With winter just around the corner and the onset of Christmas families will be struggling even more this year.

The average households owe almost £13,000, this combined with falling real wages means that the next election will be the first since 1931 when living standards are lower than the last general election! There is a widening gap between income and needs and the chancellor and the DWP attacks on those on benefits and low wages is only going to accentuate this problem and this will feed through to the wider economy as people on low incomes spend nearly all of their disposable income in the economy each week.

And underpinning this whole huge “economic recovery” deception by George Osborne is still the lie that enabled the deception in the first place and that is the deliberate falsification of this country’s unemployment figures, with zero hour contracts, workfare and a low paid workforce on part-time work, the true unemployment figures must be at the very least 4 million and not the 2.5 million.

If Mark Carney the new BoE Governor (hired by George Osborne) allows interest rates to continually ultra low, this will in turn keep house prices artificially high and they will continue to rise, this will have a devastating affect people’s ability to buy a house, no matter how much Osborne tries to buck the market with taxpayers money. What we are witnessing here is ‘market rigging’ and the cost to this country is going to be of catastrophic proportions, it will make the crash of 2008 look like a walk in the park!

Whichever party forms the next government after the 2015 election they will have to deal with the true number of unemployed and underemployed. They will have to raise taxes by at least £6bn to try and plug the gap of Osborne’s £25 bn black hole in the public finances  as well as deal with falling tax receipts due to zero hour contracts, the two are polar opposites and will have a disastrous effect on the economy, however, this is not the only only worry, whoever is chancellor after 2015, will have to deal with the impending disaster of Osborne’s housing bubble and his ‘Funding for Lending’ and  ‘Help to Buy’ schemes and when and how to stop them when the period of “political influence” comes to an end without triggering a financial tsunami in the economy if it already hasn’t happened as a result of him bucking the housing market!

Then there is the social costs of Osborne’s policies and the rise in homelessness and poverty and the unprecedented rise in the number of food banks and those dependent upon them to feed their families.  The doubling of winter fuel bills and food bills, made worse by the cuts to people’s benefits and working families tax credits etc.
By the time of the next election  a new report out estimates that workers will have lost an average of £6,600 from their wages in real terms. With price rises outstripping pay, David Cameron has presided over 36 months of falls in wages, more than any other prime minister, how is this going to help the economy?

The  new government will also have to deal with disaster that the Tories are currently causing in the NHS with their unwanted, unnecessary health and Social Care reforms also known as full-scale NHS privatisation. We as a country will suddenly have millions without health cover and  all the implications for social decay and poor public health this will inevitably bring.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said the Bank will not consider raising interest rates until the jobless rate has fallen to 7% or below.

Would that jobless rate be the official jobless rate or the real one? The government preferred jobless rate of 2.5 million of the true unemployment rate of over 4 million?

Does his forecast of 750,000 new jobs in 3 years include all those on zero hour contracts and those reclassified public sector jobs to private sector?

It appears that the new Tory hired Governor of the Bank of England is going to continue with the old Tory deception of the out going Mervyn King.

Meanwhile this country is tipping towards financial catastrophe and the only thing that seems to matter to the City, big business and the banks etc is reinstating another Tory government – the Conservative party the political wing of the banks and big business.

God help us, our government is operating a massive deception and taking a massive gamble with all our livelihoods!

Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor

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Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor
By Kittysjones, previously published here

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Here is yet another great Tory lie exposed – “Making work pay”. This Government have raided our tax-funded welfare provision and used it to provide handouts to the very wealthy – £107, 000 EACH PER YEAR in the form of a tax cut for millionaires. The Conservatives claim that it is “unfair” that people on benefits are “better off” than those in work. But the benefit cuts are having a dire impact on workers as well. 
People in work, especially those who are paid low wages, often claim benefits. Housing benefit, tax credit and council tax benefit are examples of benefits that are paid to people with jobs. Indeed the number of working people claiming housing benefit has risen by 86 per cent in three years, which debunks another Tory myth that benefits are payable only to the “feckless” unemployed.
By portraying housing benefit as a payment for “the shirkers”, not “the strivers”, Cameron and Osborne aim to convince the public that their draconian, unprecedented welfare “reforms” are justified.  60% of people visiting food banks last year were in work. But unemployment benefits are just 13 per cent of the national average earnings. What Cameron’s Government have done is created extreme hardship for many of those in work, and further severe hardship for those who are unemployed.
“Making work pay” is a big lie that has benefited no-one but the very wealthy, and the reduction in the value and amount of welfare support has come at a time when we are witnessing steady reductions in worker’s rights, and worryingly, the Tory-led Government is stepping up its attack on employment health and safety regulations.
Last week, on the 25th April 2013, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was granted royal assent, bringing into law the Government’s widely unpopular proposals to scrap employers’ 114-year-old liability for their staff’s health and safety in the workplace. This steady erosion of our fundamental and hard-earned rights in the workplace is linked to the steady erosion of the basic human rights of the vulnerable. The Government have liberated wealthy private companies of any moral or legal responsibilities, so that they can simply generate vast profits by exploiting workers who have increasingly fewer means of redress.
There is also a growing reserve army of labour that may be exploited via the workfare schemes. This will mean that unscrupulous, greedy, profit-driven employers will increasingly replace paid workers with unpaid ones that are forced to work for their benefits or face losing them. This is a politically enforced program of reducing the populations expectations regarding choice, opportunities, rights, and quality of life.
A recent proposal from our “caring Conservatives” is that new in-work claimants should be required to attend an initial interview at a Job Centre “where a conditionality regime should be set up to ensure the individual is doing all they can to increase their hours and earnings”.   Claimants “should then be forced to attend a quarterly meeting to be reminded of their responsibility to try to increase their earnings”, with sanctions applied for failing to attend. This may well be the next stage of the welfare “reforms”, incorporating a punitive approach to those in work, as well as those unfortunate enough to be out of work.
There is no absolutely no evidence, sense or logic behind the Tory claim that cutting welfare will “make work pay”. Well, unless we are referring to the greedy employers that will benefit and profit from the welfare reforms and reduction in worker’s rights.Our work will pay, for them.
“Make work pay” is an entirely ideologically driven, dogmatic, absurd and reductionist Conservative superficial sound-bite. There is certainly an  essence of all that is Tory in “peremptory”. There is also many a Tory donor in private business that wants to see more profit and a more abject workforce.
The real “culture of entitlement” is not to be found amongst the poor, the unemployed, the sick and disabled as this Government would have you believe. As a matter of fact, most amongst this politically demarcated social group have paid tax and paid for the provision that they ought to be able to rely on when they/we have need of it, it’s ours, after all. The real culture of entitlement comes from the very wealthy, and is well-fed and sustained by our aristocratic and authoritarian Government.
Every time we have periods of high unemployment, growing inequalities, substantial increases in poverty, and loss of protective rights, there is a Conservative Administration behind this wilful destruction of people’s lives, and the unravelling of essential social progress and civilised development that spans more than one century in ontogeny and  maturation.
The Conservatives lied about our “generous welfare”. It wasn’t and it certainly isn’t now. Coming at the same time that severe cuts to tax credits and benefits are set to make an estimated 11.5 million households poorer, the Chancellor was accused by Britain’s largest union, Unite of conducting class war on the poor while giving handouts to the rich.
The following cuts came into force in April 2013:
  • 1 April – Housing benefit cut, including the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’1 April – Council tax benefit cut
  • 1 April – Legal Aid savagely cut
  • 6 April – Tax credit and child benefit cut
  • 7 April – Maternity and paternity pay cut
  • 8 April – 1 per cent cap on the rise of in working-age benefits (for the next three years)
  • 8 April – Disability living allowance replaced by personal independence payment (PIP)
  • 15 April – Cap on the total amount of benefit working-age people can receive922829_509977429064049_604527973_n
In addition, wages have not risen in real terms since 2003 and there are further fears that the Government is trying to pressurise the Low Pay Commission into cutting the national minimum wage from its present £6.19 per hour.
Commenting, general secretary Len McCluskey of Unite said: “Millionaires will be raising a glass of champagne to George Osborne this weekend as he slashes the incomes of people struggling to get by to give handouts to the rich.
“But ordinary people – taxpayers – will be furious that George Osborne has chosen to give away £1 billion to the super-rich while their fuel and food costs rise and wages are falling.
“His party knows no shame.  They are trying to claim that their tax cuts benefit ordinary people but this is another lie – the truth is that while those earning over £1 million per year will be an average £100,000 better off, low income families will be around £900 worse off.
“This is not the way to recover our failing economy.  Creating real jobs and paying decent wages, including a one pound increase on the minimum wage, will bring down the benefits bill and get people spending again.
“Instead of getting on with the job he ought to be doing, like sorting out the problems he has caused to our economy, Osborne prefers to encourage hatred and demonise the poor, both in and out of work, in an ideological attack on our welfare state.”
“David Cameron and George Osborne believe the only way to persuade millionaires to work harder is to give them more money.
But they also seem to believe that the only way to make you (ordinary people) work harder is to take money away.” Ed Miliband.
Bravo Ed, very well spotted contradiction regarding Cameron’s claims about how “incentives” work. Apparently, the rich are a different kind of human from the majority of human beings.
It’s plain to see that Cameron rewards his wealthy friends, and has a clear elitist agenda, whilst he funds his friends and sponsors by stealing money from the tax payer, by stripping welfare provision and public services down to bare bones.
A simple truth is that poverty happens because some people are very, very rich. That happens ultimately because of Government policies that create, sustain and extend inequalities. The very wealthy are becoming wealthier, the poor are becoming poorer. This is a consequence of  ”vulture capitalism”, designed by the opportunism and greed of a few, it is instituted, facilitated and directed by the Tory-led  Coalition.  
Welfare provision was paid for by the public, via tax and NI contributions. It is not a “handout.” It is not the Governments money to cut. That is our provision, paid for by us to support us if and when we need it. It’s the same with the National Health Service. These public services and provisions do not and never did belong to the Government to sell off, make profit from, and strip bare as they have done
Low wages and low benefit levels, rising unemployment and a high cost of living are major causes of poverty. (“worklessness” is a made-up word to imply that the consequences of Government policies are somehow the fault of the victims of this traditional Tory harshness. It’s a psychological and linguistic attack on the vulnerable – blaming the unemployed for unemployment, and the poor for poverty.) Those are a consequence of Coalition policies. The Coalition take money from those who need it most to give away to those who need it least. That causes poverty. The Coalition are creating poverty via the consequences of policies.
It’s time to debunk the great myth of meritocracy. Wealth has got nothing whatsoever to do with “striving” and hard work. If it were so simple, then most of the poor would be billionaires by now.
This week it was reported that one school liaison officer told how a parent came to her pleading for help because her children were suffering from SCURVY – a potentially fatal condition caused by a severe Vitamin C deficiency. It’s an illness linked with malnutrition and poverty, and has seldom been seen in this Country for most of this Century, due to improvements in medical knowledge, and the development of adequate welfare provision that had eliminated absolute poverty in Britain. Until now. It’s increasing again.
Evil is “that which is moving against the tide of evolution” – Dion Fortune.
The clocks stopped the moment that the Tories took Office. Now their policies mean we are losing a decade a day.

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           Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant art work.
Further reading:
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/31/families-900-per-year-wor_n_2986906.html
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/04/labour-exposes-osbornes-tax-cut-bankers
http://www.catherinemckinnellmp.co.uk/a-catalogue-of-failure-and-broken-promises-is-labours-catherine-mckinnell-mps-verdict-on-george-osbornes-autumn-statement/

http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/the-poverty-of-responsibility-and-the-politics-of-blame/
http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/we-are-raising-more-money-for-the-rich-an-analysis/
http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/whoever-said-labour-has-no-policies-prepare-to-be-embarrassed/

114 year Workers Rights Scrapped by Coalition Government.

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 114 year Workers’ Rights Scrapped  by Coalition Government.

From @Earwiggle

So, it’s official – workers today have less entitlement to be safe at work than those in Victorian Times. That the Government supports those who work and strive to support families is a nonsense. Consistently, we witness the Coalition continuously and callously attack ordinary working people.  David Cameron rejoices at a return to the Victorian “Golden Age”. (1)

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I recall a death certificate which I acquired from genealogical research. Metal polishing in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter in Victorian Times meant working with toxic metals, and one woman met her death when her crinoline became trapped in a lathe. These workers lived in poverty  in insanitary back-to-back-housing, in poor health due to poor diet. Elsewhere, children were working in cotton mills and on the land, with little or no education and with dangerous machinery. I had imagined this was history – not the future.

The Institute for Employment Rights reports:

Victorian Era Workers’ Rights Scrapped By Coalition:

Last week, on the 25th April 2013, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was granted royal assent, bringing into law the government’s widely unpopular proposals to scrap employers’ 114-year-old liability for their staff’s health and safety in the workplace.

This means that the burden of proof now falls on the employee to show that the employer had been negligent in their duties towards them, rather than the employer being asked to prove they were following regulations correctly, as has been the case since the Victorian era. This is likely to result in injured workers, and the families of the deceased, being unable to claim compensation for their losses due to accidents at the workplace, seeing as the evidence needed to prove negligence is held by the employer rather than the employee – and employers guilty of negligence are unlikely to willingly hand over the proof. (2)

The  Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill ERRB was amended at the very last minute  by the government, by insertion of 61 clause which will mean that a worker can be injured due to an employer’s breach of a statutory duty within health and safety at work regulations but the worker will be prevented from enforcing that breach.

At present a civil claim for personal injury can be brought for negligence and/or breach of statutory duty. A breach of statutory duty would occur, for instance, if an employer failed to comply with regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), such as failure to guard a machine or keep a gangway clear of obstructions. (3)

Employers will no longer be liable in the civil courts for the criminal offence of a breach of the HSWA regulations. In every case, rather than be able to rely on the breach of the regulations, the worker will have to prove the employer was negligent.

With the removal of legal aid, non unionised workers would be unable to challenge. Workers vulnerability to exploitative employers has been set back more than a century. Rights achieved by solidarity of working people by the Labour Movement have been ripped away. Labour opposed the ERRB Bill and must ensure a reversal when returned to government.

The ERRB motion was passed before some voters went to the polls in Local Elections last week , and without mention on the BBC and little in mainstream news.

On 16th April the government abolished the Agricultural Workers Wages Board, (AWWB) without even a debate (4)  in the Commons. This will result in poverty and could lead to exploitation of children.

Next – the minimum wage is to be targeted. Introduced by the Labour Party, this lifted many from abject poverty.  The Telegraph (5) reports that the minimum wage is at risk, and   it could be frozen, or cut. This will put millions at risk of poverty. We are living in a divided society, where women and children are being hit hardest. People are going into debt to eat and we are seeing a resurgence of scurvy. How can this be even contemplated?

Labour List on Minimum Wage Cut

Before it was introduced millions were working for terrifyingly small salaries as low as £1 an hour. The minimum wage made work pay and released millions from the most abject poverty. Despite the scare-mongering from the right, it didn’t cost jobs. It set a legal floor below which we as a society said we would not allow – or force – people to go.  (6)

We are seeing so many of Labour’s achievements in government being rolled back, the NHS, welfare state, free school meals and improved access to education.  Add to that Legal Aid, the Open University, and women’s rights. In recent years, Surestart and the Minimum Wage. Equality for Women is threatened as the Government attacks Maternity Rights, and ChildCare Support. The Tories say they want “work to pay” … but it’s certainly  not the workers who will benefit, it’s employers and big business.

The Conservative Party have not won a General Election in 21 years , yet the Liberal Democrats continue to keep this extreme, reactionary government in power, allowing  total destruction of the Welfare State, stripping assets built and earned by working people and actively pursue policies which erode Workers’ Rights. Will Liberal Democrats look to their consciences and walk?

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

  1. Guardian: Conservative Nostalgia for Victorian Times is Dangerous
  2. Employment Rights: Victorian Era Workers’ Rights Scrapped By Coalition:
  3. RMT -Transport  Union: Return of the Dark Satanic Mills: The End of Civil Liability in Health and Safety
  4. MPs abolish Farm Wages Board  Farmers Weekly
  5. Telegraph: Minimum Wage could be Frozen or Cut, Government Suggests
  6. Labour List: They’re coming after the Minimum Wage – Get Angry!
  7. Maternity Action : Policy and Research
  8. Think Left: Remember the Real Divide – it is Rich and Poor
  9. GMB: Government taking Workforce back to Victorian Times
  10. Morning Star: UKIP MEP blasted after Maternity Rights Rant
  11. Guardian: One is Seven Women made Redundant after Maternity Leave
  12. BBC: Many are borrowing for food