Sunday 28 February 2010

Brighton and Hove Council's cheap labour scheme

Council cutting jobs and replacing them with "apprenticeships"

Anyone reading City News will be aware that the Council is trumpeting its Apprenticeships Strategy, claiming to have already created 70 apprenticeships with an aim of creating 500 by 2012 with other city employers.

Indeed, no-one could argue with the idea of creating genuine apprenticeships where young people can learn the skills they need for the labour market - even though this sits a little awkwardly with the simultaneous cutting of 100 jobs.

But there is now clear evidence that the Council is using apprenticeships to actually replace jobs - getting rid of skilled employees and getting apprentices to do their work at a fraction of the cost.

As a trade union rep it falls to me to be consulted on management proposals for the restructuring of services and departments, and I received a briefing on just such a restructure last Thursday. I was presented with a paper which showed quite clearly the cutting of posts alongside the increasing of the number of apprenticeships. Now, I could of course have misunderstood what the paper appeared to be suggesting, but the manager concerned was very helpful and quite happy to spell out the message......"we're cutting too-expensive full-time permanent posts and covering the work with apprentices".

Staff in the service concerned will find this out on Monday 1st March, and I will post again with more detail after that.

But perhaps people might be wanting to ask the Council what their agenda in creating apprenticeships actually is.

Creating opportunities for young people? Or cutting costs and getting work on the cheap on the way to zero tax-rise Nirvana?

Sunday 14 February 2010

TUSC launches in Brighton!

Bob Crow will speak at the launch meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which is standing in Brighton Kemptown at the General Election.
The candidate will be Dave Hill, former Labour Councillor and parliamentary candidate for Pavilion.
Come and hear about TUSC at the launch - 6.45pm, 9 March, Brighthelm Centre.

Public Ownership, Not Privatised Profit
• No Cuts - Quality Public Services
• Jobs, Not Handouts To Bankers & Billionaires
• Employment & Trade Union Rights
• Protect Our Environment - Stop Global Warming
• Decent Pensions & Benefits
• Democracy, Diverstiy & Justice
• Solidarity Not War
• Socialism
Come and find out more and how you can help!
Tuesday 9 March, 6.45pm Brighthelm Centre

Friday 12 February 2010

The abuse of power in Brighton and Hove

Two incidents stand out as testament to the supreme arrogance and abuse of power of our elected representatives (past and present).

It has now been a week since the news broke that Ivor Caplin, former New Labour MP for Hove, was being required to pay back nearly £18,000 in expenses having failed to answer letters from the Legg Enquiry. Since then Ivor has made no apparent attempt to come forward and tell his side of the story - or offer an apology. I have heard that he has not even been seen at Albion games, which, believe me, really does mean he's gone to ground.

Caplin is undoubtedly a talented individual, but sadly he seems to be shot through with a streak of arrogance which meant he often treated constituents with barely-concealed disdain, and generally appeared to believe that basic rules of conduct were for other people. He contributed to this perception by taking up the practice of going everywhere with a "minder" (who was to be implicated in the shameful manhandling of Walter Wolfgang out of the Labour Party Conference).

Quite why Ivor ever thought he was important enough for anyone to want to take a pop at him was never explained. But he clearly thinks he's far too important to be held accountable over his expenses.

The second example concerns the Brighton and Hove Tories, particularly those who serve on the planning committee. They have just been caught red-handed using a planning application to settle a political score and leave an important local community group in financial crisis.

People who use the Queens Road will be familiar with the Community Base building and the large advertising hoarding at the northern end of it. Planning permission was uncontroversially granted with all-party support in 2004. Local businesses and residents have no issues with it, and it brings in an income to Community Base of some £100,000 over 5 years - money with which they can help the most disadvantaged people in the city.

The Tories have just voted en bloc to take away consent. Strangely none of the Tories' discussion in committee concerned the visual impact of the structure or any other appropriate planning considerations......but what did exercise them greatly was that the Green Party had once had an advertisement there. Council officers at the meeting actually had to intervene to remind them on what basis they were supposed to be deciding the application. All of the other parties on the committee backed the application.

It is hard to know whether this is a calculated piece of political vindictiveness, or whether the Tories are just too stupid to know how they are supposed to make a planning decision. Believe me, either explanation is plausible, but for the hapless Community Base, caught in the middle, it is potentially disastrous. One can only hope that this gets overturned at the earliest opportunity. Community Base is appealing the decision and is also lodging a complaint.

If there was any justice, any financial reparation ought to come out of those councillors' pockets.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Unions meeting together

On Tuesday 60 trade unionists from across all sectors met to discuss how we fight back against job cuts and attacks on terms and conditions.

Gary Hassell of RMT spoke about cuts in track maintenance. He characterised them as cuts in green jobs. How can we be undermining public transport at a time like this? There are also the safety implications. Train cleaners also face being privatised. RMT is going for an industrial action ballot. They deserve all our support.

Jim Guild of lecturers' union UCU talked about the attacks on higher education.
Massive job cuts are being proposed which will drastically reduce access to education. Jim gave solidarity to the student occupation and representatives from the occupation also spoke.

We also heard from Unite reps at Edwards, the factory based in Shoreham and Burgess Hill, which is being closed down. The jobs are going to the Czech Republic and Korea.

The reps from the FBU talked about the threatened closure of Preston Circus fire station. All sorts of ludicrous statements are being dreamt up by management to justify this. Apparently it isn't "central enough" and tenders "struggle to get out". Really it's about costcutting.

Finally Jonathan Neale of the Campaign Against Climate Change drew the links between the crisis and the loss of green jobs.

The meeting was organised by Brighton Trades Council and Unison.

The focus now is on the March for Jobs on 6th March.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Sussex Students occupy

Over 100 Students occupy the main conference room at the University of Sussex in protest against ill-advised and shortsighted proposed cuts to the university. After a demonstration attended by over 300 staff and students, with speeches from Simon Burgess Labour candidate for Brighton and Kemp Town, Tom Hickey of the UCU National Executive, Paul Cecil President of the UCU Sussex branch, Jon Mason of Unison and Pat Hawkes of Brighton and Hove City Council, students at Sussex University have occupied the main conference centre of Falmer Campus

This is a statement from the 106 students who have occupied the top floor of Bramber House, University of Sussex, Brighton, in protest against the proposed cuts at the university:

The decision to occupy has been taken after weeks of concerted campaigning during which the university management have repeatedly failed to take away the threat of compulsory redundancies and course cuts.

We recognise that an attack on education workers is an attack on us.

The room we have occupied is not a lecture theatre but a conference centre. As such, we are not disrupting the education of our fellow students; rather, we are disrupting a key part of management’s strategy to run the university as a profitable business.

They’re occupying everywhere in waves across California, New York, Greece, Croatia, Germany and Austria and elsewhere – and not only in the universities. We send greetings of solidarity and cheerful grins to all those occupation movements and everyone else fighting the pay cuts, cuts in services and jobs which will multiply everywhere as bosses and states try and pull out of the crisis.

But we are the crisis.

Profitability means nothing against the livelihoods destroyed, lost homes, austerity measures, green or otherwise. We just heard we’ve increased ‘operational costs’ – they’d set out the building for a meeting and now they’ll have to do it again

We’ll show them “operational costs.”

Occupy again and again and again.



-All the occupiers of the 8th of February.
Sussex Stop the Cuts

Sunday 7 February 2010

Pass the sickbag!

I’m vewy vewy upset….blub….

Brighton Benefits Campaign - off to a good start

On Friday I went to a well-attended (for a Friday night) meeting to launch the Brighton Benefits Campaign. A new campaign group around this issue is very welcome at a time when people on benefits are being criminalised and scapegoated like never before.

Importantly the campaign draws the links between the unemployed and those in low-paid work, and also, in having a trade unionist working in the benefits system on the platform, it got across the important point that benefits workers are not the enemy - many of them being on benefits themselves to survive. In fact it was Gerry Hyde of the PCS union who gave in some ways the most devastating speech as she described the chaotic and under-resourced Jobcentre Plus Network, staffed by untrained temporary workers. Caroline Lucas also made a good contribution and it was good to see the Green Party taking a position on this issue.

There was a time when Brighton had a thriving and campaigning voluntary sector which campaigned as well as just advised and represented claimants. This largely fell away as it was shut down or absorbed by the local state, leaving only the Unemployed Workers Centre as an independent campaigning force.

The establishment of the Brighton Benefits Campaign will hopefully start to redress the situation.

Why so shy Ivor?

Ivor Caplin was no stranger to the limelight when he was an MP. But strangely he has gone awfully quiet recently. In particular, it seems strange that he seems to have nothing to say about the demand for nearly £18,000 in mortgage interest from Sir Thomas Legg, head of the enquiry into MPs' expenses. The demand is based on Caplin's failure to reply to letters asking him to account for the money. Now whilst Ivor's "inefficiency" with correspondence is legendary among his former constituents, this seems rather careless to say the least!

So, Ivor, are you going to explain this? Do you not think that you owe your constituents some sort of accountability? You were after all so vocal in your unquestioning support for Boss Blair's drive to war.

For answers to these questions and more try

Wednesday 3 February 2010

The scandal of the unclaimed 16 billion

The news that £16 billion-worth of benefits went unclaimed last year lifts the lid on one of the Welfare State's dirtiest little secrets.

While New Labour pursues benefit fraud relentlessly it's record on take-up is actually getting worse.

The problems lie with the complexity and inaccessibility of the system and media-generated perceptions about entitlement.

The worst-affected areas are -

Housing and Council Tax Benefits not being claimed by working families (they think only unemployed people qualify).

Tax credits missed by working people without children (they think only people with children qualify)

Pensioners missing out on Pension Credit.

These people are making do with an inadequate income. This means that they and their families are excluded that bit more from mainstream society.

Their children go without school books and miss field trips, people's buying power is reduced, people eat less healthily. All of these things have social and economic consequences for all of us.

It is truly a modern-day scandal.