Tag Archives: writing

The Replacement of Rights with Gifts (And How to Put It in Reverse)

The Trussell Trust opened their first food bank in the UK in Salisbury in 2000, by 2004 there were two. Today, after nearly a decade of austerity, there are thousands [1], and their use, as difficult, demoralising, humiliating as it is for some, has become normal. The role of the state to protect the food security of its people has been abrogated in favour of the kindness of strangers, the rise of food banks applauded in some circles as growth in the power of community organising and on the right as demonstration of the success of a small state, Blair’s third sector, Cameron’s big society. [2]

Worse: in-work poverty. The number of people qualifying for the support of food banks who actually have jobs but are paid so poorly, often by super-rich multi-national corporations, that they’re forced to rely on charity for food, toiletries, sanitary products. You might as well pay for your basket of shopping at the checkout then put it all straight back on the shelves. This is life at the coalface of capitalism, this year’s ragged-trousered philanthropists work in call centres and supermarkets.

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We Shall Overcome, now in it’s fifth year, offers a raised fist and a helping hand, and the helping hand, directed by local organisers, artists and promoters has often been held out to food banks, a direct interface with some of those hardest hit by austerity.

As for the raised fist: now’s the time. We stand on the threshold of major change if Labour are successful in next month’s general election. Joe Solo and Grace Petrie are hitting the road supporting CLPs, the Protest Family still slip from venue to picket line to fundraiser. While others pontificate about polls and parliamentary arithmetic, WSO activists are focussing their energy on the real possibility of a better world. Sociologist Janet Poppendieck warned that the institutionalisation of food banks can be difficult to resist and overturn. [3] We have a chance to prove her wrong, to consign Food Bank Britain to the dustbin of history.

WSO What's Cookin' 2019

Whether our next WSO gig, on 14th December, turns out to be a celebration or a show of solidarity in the face of future uncertainty is yet to be seen. What’s clear is the helping hand will still be required, so please, fill the venue, fill the bucket, fill your soul with music and common purpose, it promises to be something of an occasion whatever happens.

Steve

 

1.https://web.archive.org/web/20130112223915/http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Our%20work/Lambie-%282011%29-The-Trussell-Trust-Foodbank-Network—Exploring-the-Growth-of-Foodbanks-Across-the-UK.pdf

2. In 2017, Jacob Rees-Mogg told LBC that he found the rise in food bank use as “rather uplifting”

3.https://web.archive.org/web/20130112230035/http://www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/gpp/foodsecurity/publicevents/householdfoodsecurity/food_security_summary.pdf

The Side of the Fox

Fox Logo

Genuinely written one Boxing Day out of anger and frustration waiting for the hit reports to come in.

As the election approaches, a reminder: there may be no manifesto pledge to repeal the Hunting Act but Boris Johnson is pro-hunt. He repeatedly voted against the ban and even went so far as to suggest hunting urban foxes on horseback. “This will cause massive unpopularity but I don’t care” he quipped. Oh, what a laugh.

Of course Farage is too, it speaks of the imaginary England that he wants to return to, and he supports the violent and bloodthirsty Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent hunt.[1] His decision not to stand in the election is both cowardly and cute, as it frees him up to travel the country campaigning with Brexit Party candidates with no pressure to succeed in his own constituency.

I’m acutely aware that Protest For Dummies, the album that features The Side of the Fox, is approaching it’s third birthday, and that the time, space, finance and recording logistics for the fourth Protest Family studio album are still matters for the future, so, taking them into my own hands, I will attempt to record the band myself over the next few weeks, having learned some valuable lessons in the process of creating solo efforts Snowflake and Fake News From Nowhere.

Fox, due a refresh with drums, is on the list, with another five songs currently in guide track form. Next step is Andi on the kit and then we’ll see.

Wish us luck, and (watch this space).

Steve

Boys and Dogs

[1] https://www.huntsabs.org.uk/index.php/faqs/92-news/press-releases/552-nigel-farage-attends-boxing-day-meet-of-violent-huntsman-again

Cleaning up Outsourcing with the UVW

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The good news is that when your job is transferred from one company to another, you’re protected by a piece of legislation called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, or TUPE for short.

The bad news is that lots of stuff: employer pension contributions, childcare voucher schemes, flexible working arrangements, the location of your office; isn’t protected by TUPE.

The good news is that your contractual terms and conditions: pay, holiday entitlement, period of continuous employment; are all protected by TUPE.

The bad news is that any of your protection under TUPE can be overridden if there’s an economic, technical or organisational (ETO) justification, and boy, are the big outsourcing companies good at finding one of those.

If you’re being outsourced then there’s never been a better time to join a trade union.

Back in 2015 we told you about Mrs Windsor’s Geraniums when our mate Phil, a GMB rep at the time, took the Royal Parks gardeners out on strike after they were outsourced to OCS, who promptly found an ETO justification to strip everyone of two weeks pay a year as well as taking liberties with a number of other terms and conditions.

Now, new kids on the block, the United Voices of the World are bringing Royal Parks workers back out. The parks’ cleaners are demanding a living wage, sick pay and a proper holiday entitlement. It should be a matter of national shame that people indirectly employed by the monarch earn a pitiful £8.21 per hour.

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Every picket line should have one

Me and Funky Lol caught up with the UVW on their picket line at the University of Greenwich this week.[1] There the café workers have already shamed hospitality outsourcing firm Baxter Storey into paying them a living wage, now they’re demanding sick pay and an end to under-staffing after one chef collapsed and had to be admitted to hospital after an 80-hour week.

But they’re not going to stop there. UVW members, who are mainly migrant workers, women and first time union members and strikers are taking action right across the capital. They include the cleaners at St Mary’s Hospital (Sodhexo), the cleaners, security guards and receptionists at the Ministry of Justice (OCS), the security guards at the University of East London [2], the security guards at St George’s University (Noonan) and the cleaners at 200 Grays Inn Road, home of ITN, ITV and Channel 4.

The UVW know what they’re doing, they’re making the invisible visible, giving a voice to the voiceless, standing up for the very people without whom the city would just grind to a halt.

A change is coming; we know a song about that.

Steve

[1] We might’ve sung them a few songs

[2] A strange twist. The security guards at the University of East London have been taken back in house, but TUPE-ed back to their original employer on their worsened, outsourced contracts.

Steve at the TUC

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Picture: Amanda Martin, published on Facebook.

Steve’s speech to the 2019 TUC Congress on behalf of the FBU:

President, Congress: Steve White, Fire Brigades Union.

On the 14th of June 2017 a fire occurred at Grenfell Tower in west London that killed 72 people. 72 people who had every right to believe that their homes had been built, maintained and refurbished with their safety from fire in mind. Those 72 people, and hundreds of others: bereaved, survivors, residents, deserve justice.

Last year, phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry considered the events of that night, considered 668 statements from firefighters, operational and in control, and heard oral evidence from 88 of them.

I want to thank our members, at the incident and in control rooms, who were faced with a situation that they were never trained to deal with, who worked tirelessly throughout the night to save as many lives as they could.

I want to pay tribute to every member who gave a statement to the Inquiry, re-living that night sometimes at great personal cost, and to the members that we witnessed day after day giving oral evidence to the Inquiry, honestly, and clearly to the best of their ability.

I also want to place on record our thanks for the immense work of FBU officials from around the country who ensured that every member who gave evidence to the Inquiry was supported by their trade union. Our message to our members is clear: The FBU have got your back.

Congress, I also want to pay tribute to the community who continue to respond to this tragedy with dignity and tenacity.

We are all still waiting for the Inquiry’s interim report.

It is bound to be critical of the London Fire Brigade.

It may also make criticisms of individual firefighters.

Rest assured that we will respond robustly if any of our members are attacked by the Inquiry. It is our duty to ensure that our members are not scapegoated for the failings of those above their pay grade, be they fire service bosses or government ministers.

Phase two, what happened before and after the fire, is unlikely to start until next year and may go on for years. The FBU will continue to participate in the Inquiry as long as necessary. We have made detailed submissions about the fire safety regime, deregulation and the failures of politicians over many decades.

We need to remind politicians that the people who lived in Grenfell Tower are not to blame for what happened.

We need to remind politicians that firefighters are not responsible for the fire at Grenfell Tower.

The owners and senior managers of the building, the construction firms, the contractors, those who sold and installed the cladding, the fire doors, the windows, all need to answer for their role in this tragedy; as must local councillors who made decisions to contract out the building and ignored their own residents’ concerns and, above all, Westminster politicians who watered down fire safety regulations, imposed austerity on the Fire and Rescue Service (and indeed on all of us) and who failed to respond to the advice of coroners, fire safety experts and the warnings given by this union.

Congress, I ask you to support us in our campaign, Grenfell: Never Again.

We seek to engage with the community and other campaigners to demand:

The removal and banning of all combustible cladding. (And comrades, I’m sure that you all saw pictures of the fire at Worcester Park in the early hours of yesterday morning and asked questions about its construction).

A national review of the Stay Put policy.

The strengthening of tenants’ rights.

New national structures for the Fire and Rescue Service, and

An increase in specialist fire safety officers.

Comrades, we must make sure that nothing like Grenfell Tower ever happens again.

Congress, I move.

Justice for Grenfell!

We might know a song about that (but you’ll have to ask us when you see us).

 

 

 

Homemade, Witty Placard Parade

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So you’re Boris Johnson. You’ve bided your time as Tory leader (and by default Prime Minister) in waiting, struck when Theresa May was at her weakest (and let’s face it that wasn’t hard) and now you’ve made it, you are Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Problem: You have a working majority of one vote, propped up by bribing the right wing, socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party.

Solution: Take the UK out of the European Union, preferably with a deal but without if necessary, on 31st October, then call a general election, riding high on the headlines that you were the leader that succeeded where David Cameron and Theresa May failed, mopping up votes from the newly defunct Brexit Party, which was basically a home for Tory eurosceptics who didn’t believe that the Tories could achieve leaving the EU anyway, and return with a bigger majority from which you can claim a mandate to further your neo-liberal agenda.

Problem: Parliament (in which you have a working majority of one) is set against a no-deal Brexit and prepared to legislate against one. They also voted down Theresa May’s deal and every subsequent amendment as not good enough and, when given the option to create their own deal, failed to come up with an alternative. Worse, the EU have been kind but clear that there is no other deal on the table. Worse still the DUP, on whom you rely for a parliamentary majority, will not tolerate any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK and, despite talk of it, there is no alternative to a hard border between the UK and the EU in Ireland once tariff-free trade ends.

If Parliament legislates against leaving the EU without a deal and there is no other deal to be done the best that you can hope for is a further extension of Article 50, the worst a successful vote of no confidence moved by Jeremy Corbyn. In any event plans to call a snap election on the back of Brexit delivered on time would be in tatters.

Solution: Prevent Parliament from sitting, using what you’ve previously described as an arcane and undemocratic procedure, so that they can’t legislate to stop you leaving the EU by any means necessary on 31st October, tell some bold lies[1] in friendly media outlets and tough it out.

Problem: Shutting down democracy has brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, on the day prorogation was announced, at the weekend and more protests are set to follow.

Gird your loins comrades, keep fighting for democracy[2] and let’s figure out what it takes to make toughing it out no longer an option for Johnson. Let’s get the Tories out.

We know so may songs about him.

Steve

[1] Our post-truth, polarised world gives new meaning to the word “lie”. Politicians, press and the people all know he’s lying, it just doesn’t seem to matter.

[2] The real stuff, not what a bunch of Old Etonians debating in a medieval building pass off as democracy.

Bury FC

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Bury FC’s crest celebrates the town’s industrial history: metalworking, wool, textiles and paper making.

Bury FC, formed in 1885, twice winners of the FA Cup, promoted last season to League One, have been expelled from the English Football League. The gutless EFL expressed their deep regret, their fit and proper person test neither fit nor proper, taking no responsibility for overseeing the sale of the club in December 2018, for a pound, to asset-stripper Steve Dale, hiding behind “the integrity of the competition”[1] and not for the first time.

Steve Dale, who sold the club’s trophies to Bury Heritage, a company that he owns, who sold a £7m debt owed by the club to RCR Holdings, a company wholly owned by his daughter’s partner. Steve Dale, who didn’t pay the bills or the players’ or staff wages. Steve Dale, who on BBC Radio 5 Live said these things:

I never went to Bury.

It’s not a place I frequented.

So for me to walk away from Bury and never go back is a very easy thing to do.

I didn’t even know there was a football team called Bury to be honest.

I’m not a football fan.

If you’re a football fan then Steve Dale is a monster, and he’s not alone, the modern game breeds them: the Oystons, Sisu Capital, Francesco Becchetti, the list goes on.

Becchetti of course, tried to destroy Leyton Orient and it was a sustained and determined fans’ campaign, led by Leyton Orient Fans Trust, that was instrumental in the club being bought, some might say rescued, by Texan investor Kent Teague under the guidance of lifelong fan and Dunkin’ Doughnuts chairman, Nigel Travis.

But owners come and go, as do managers, players, trophies, good times and bad. The only constant is the fans, often generations of them.

When we wrote Brisbane Road, it was as fans. The song celebrates all the things that Orient’s not: nobody takes out a Sky Sports subscription to watch the O’s on the television, nobody picks Orient players for their Dream Team, and all the things that it is: Doug’s multiple message board personalities, Lee Steele’s winning goal at Oxford, visiting fans taking the piss out of Chris Tate’s hair and singing “we can see you washing up” to the residents of the newly-built flats in the corners of the ground are all parts of our heritage.

Two years ago, it could’ve been us. Today it’s Bury. In the next couple of weeks it could be Bolton Wanderers too.

Football is about community, social fabric, belonging, yet is bought and sold by billionaires and taken away, re-packaged and marketed to us as a product. We have been consistently let down by those trusted with the governance of our game and it has to change. We are not customers, we are fans, we are supporters. Join your team’s supporters’ trust or if there isn’t one, start one. Demand a voice before you think you might need it. And turn off your TV.

Squires

David Squires says it best.

Solidarity with Bury fans today, let’s hope they can re-build.

Steve

  1. On 29th April 2017, already-relegated Orient’s last home game of the season was interrupted in the 85th minute by a pitch invasion, the fans protesting that Francesco Becchetti was deliberately destroying the club. An hour later, once the stadium had been cleared, the game resumed and the players of both sides idly passed the ball around to complete the final eight minutes play. This farce was at the EFL’s insistence to “protect the integrity of the competition”.

The Progress of Society is Not Linear

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The Centre for Social Injustice

It’s what Supersonic is all about.

The press report this week that Iain Duncan Smith’s think tank, The Centre For Social Justice, recommends increasing the state pension age to 70 by 2028 and 75 by 2030 because, they say, we’re living longer and we are unaffordable.

In 1948, when the state pension was introduced, a man could expect to live for 12 years in retirement and a woman 19, approximately 16% and 24% of their lives respectively[1]. The current state pension ages improve those percentages to 24% and 26%, the proposals from the Centre for Social Justice worsen them to 18% and 20%, with a man receiving his pension for just 17 years on average and a woman hers for 19 years.

But those are just numbers without considering the real hardship of people that can’t afford a workplace pension or the effects on your health and well being of being forced to work full time into old age. Those who would keep you in the workhouse, such as the Centre’s head, Andy Cook, would have you believe that work is good for you whatever your age, and stealing your state pension is a means to “help older people to remain in work”[2].

Nor do the numbers speak of inequality, the life expectancy of Blackpool man (74.7) compared to Kensington and Chelsea man (83.3), the widening of that divide with time or the socioeconomic back story.

The reality will be to make death in service the norm. This isn’t economic good sense, it’s class warfare.

Duncan Smith? We know a song about him. Hard work? We know a song about that too.

Steve

  1. Office of National Statistics
  2. Daily Mirror, 17 August 2019