Radical Roundup: 10 stories that got buried

Left Foot Forward's roundup of the progressive news you might have missed this week.

In no particular order… PS: Got a story tip? Email us: [email protected]

10. Unite has welcomed a ‘partial u-turn’ over the controversial fire-and-rehire policy at British Airways.

Alex Cruz, the chief executive of British Airways, appeared in front of the transport select committee on Wednesday and said fire-and-rehire tactics were off the table if staff approved plans.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “It is thanks to the immense work of Unite reps that British Airways has been forced to accept that it cannot indulge in the comprehensive fire and rehire policy that the airline intended. 

However, Unite said it was wrong to suggest that the fire-and-rehire policy was off the table. “There are still too many BA workers facing threats to their wages and working life.  These threats should be withdrawn today,” Beckett said.

9. The National Union of Journalists and The British Press Photographers’ Association are calling on News UK to drop a new ‘rights-grabbing contract’.

The contract, sent to regular contributors by the publisher of the Times and the Sun last week, strips photographers of almost all their rights in their commissioned work, drastically reducing their income, according to the unions.

One single fee will provide exclusive rights for News UK to use commissioned work in perpetuity across Times titles, leaving photographers unable to ever resell their commissioned work themselves.  Additionally, News UK demand exclusive syndication rights to sub-license and resell the work in perpetuity.

Instead of paying fairly for multiple uses of a non-commissioned image, News UK will be able to have three days use of images across both online and print publications for the price of just one use.  

Natasha Hirst, chair of the NUJ’s Photographers’ Council, said: “This disgraceful contract is wholly unacceptable and has no place in our industry. It is completely exploitative, strips photographers of most of their rights and will leave them much worse off. Why a news organisation feels it needs to give photographers, most of whom have struggled to work because of Covid-19, this sort of kicking beggars belief.”

8. Low inflation leaves the road clear for ‘major investment’ to boost Britain’s recovery, according to the TUC.

Wednesday’s inflation figures show CPI inflation at just 0.2% – the lowest figure for five years.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “With inflation at its lowest for five years, the road is clear for major government investment to support jobs and wages, and to boost economic recovery.  

“The most urgent step is a successor to the job retention scheme to prevent a surge in employment this autumn. We need a drive to quickly fill hundreds of thousands of vacancies in public services. And the government should invest to support new jobs in the green tech we need for a safe future.” 

7. The SNP has said the UK government’s decision to shut down a coronavirus testing centre to make way for a Brexit lorry park shows the Tories have “all the wrong priorities”.

Dr Philippa Whitford MP said it was “beyond reckless” for Boris Johnson to close the Ebbsfleet site and impose an extreme Brexit in the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis. She warned it would threaten jobs, the economy and people’s lives.

The SNP Shadow Health Secretary said the Tories are inflicting lasting Brexit damage on Scotland and the UK at a time when infection rates are rising, and said the priority for the UK government should be getting a grip of its coronavirus testing chaos.

Dr Philippa Whitford MP said: “It is beyond reckless that Boris Johnson is imposing an extreme Brexit in the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis – putting jobs, the economy and people’s lives on the line.

“The Tory government’s coronavirus testing regime is in chaos. Shutting down a testing centre to make way for a Brexit lorry park, at a time when infections are rising, shows the Tories have all the wrong priorities – and are putting their Brexit obsession ahead of public health.

“Tory ministers need to get a grip of their coronavirus testing crisis. They have been repeatedly warned about the lasting damage they are causing by inflicting Brexit at this time.

6. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) has launched a new system to allow members to relay their fears about education institutions’ failings on Covid safety directly to the union. 

The union said its plans were prompted after it was revealed that the Department for Education does not hold information on the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in schools. UCU said it would name and shame colleges or universities that were not doing enough to keep staff, students and the wider community safe.

The union said a lack of clear guidance from the Westminster government had not helped matters, but institutions could not hide behind the failings of ministers and had to demonstrate their commitment to keeping people safe. 

5. The Assistant General Secretary at Unite Gail Cartmail has been elected President of the TUC, to serve for a year.

Cartmail grew up in a council house with her postman father, and her mother who was a refugee from the Nazi occupied Channel Islands, according to the TUC. She first entered the workplace aged 15 as an apprentice hairdresser and went on to train in print graphics and design. She has represented workers as a trade unionist for over 40 years, and was her union’s first female delegate at the TUC Congress in 1983.

Speaking after her election as President, Gail Cartmail said: “It is an enormous privilege to be elected TUC President. I first joined a trade union aged 20 in my first publishing job, when I discovered that a male colleague doing the same job was paid more. It was shortly before the Equal Pay Act came in, so I challenged it with HR and was told it was because he was married, ‘with a wife’. It was a lightbulb moment. I knew about racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia, but a pay gap based on gender came as a complete shock.

“I asked my father for advice and he said ‘don’t moan at me – join a union!’ Those words are as important now as they were then, and that’s why I want to focus on two key themes during my presidency. To encourage more women to become active in their trade unions, and to protect and promote the importance of young people in the workplace and help them become active in their unions.”

Cartmail also sits on Labour’s National Policy Forum.

4. The Women’s Equality Party has welcomed the news that former Conservative MP, Charlie Elphicke, received a two-year custodial sentence after being convicted on three counts of sexual assault.

Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Mandu Reid, said: “The fact that these women have managed against the odds to secure a conviction and prison sentence is a huge victory for survivors everywhere, but this case also shines a light on the enormous obstacles women face when holding powerful men to account. 

“It was years before the first accusations against Elphicke came to light, and even after he was arrested he was allowed to continue to operate as an MP – visiting schools, shaping our laws and employing staff, just like the two women he is convicted of assaulting.

“At the last general election there was nothing to stop him from standing for re-election; he chose to resign voluntarily after tireless campaigning from survivors like our candidate Eljai Morais. And even now, we hear that a sitting parliamentarian spoke in defence of his character at his sentencing in full knowledge that he was convicted of three counts of sexual assault. If that doesn’t demonstrate the utter toxicity of Westminster culture I don’t know what will.

“The Women’s Equality Party is campaigning for the immediate suspension of any MPs arrested for sexual violence, and the immediate removal of any MP convicted of those crimes.’’

3. Keir Starmer has condemned the ‘cynicism’ of Tories clapping care workers, while backing the Immigration Bill which branded them ‘low skilled’. “It’s insulting,” he told TUC Congress on Tuesday.

Starmer pledged to retain close links to the union movement: “We are one family, one movement, and under that leadership we’ll always stay that way…My mum was a nurse, my dad was a tool-maker. For me, work meant the factory floor, or the hospital ward.”

The Labour leader also welcomed the suggestion that more unions could affiliate to the party. “I’d like to see as many affiliated as possible,” he said. Currently only a minority of unions are Labour affiliated, though those affiliated include the largest – Unite, Unison and the GMB.

2.  Campaign Against Arms Trade has called on the UK Government to end the sale of tear gas to Greece and review whether UK-made tear gas has been used against pro-democracy campaigners or refugees.

This follows ‘appalling’ footage of Greek authorities using tear gas against refugees over the weekend. The tear gas was used in Lesbos, where Greek police turned it on refugees who were protesting for secure passage out of the island and accommodation following the destruction of the Moria refugee camp by fire. At present, there are no details of what tear gas was used, or where it was made.

Tear gas is banned as a weapon in war, but it used routinely by police forces around the world. The Greek authorities have a long and shameful history of using tear gas against protesters. 

Photos taken by campaigners show that during a previous incident, on July 09 2020, the Greek police used UK-made tear gas against pro-democracy campaigners. The images appeared to show tear gas canisters and stun grenades that were made by two UK firms.

In 2010 and 2018, the UK government approved ‘open licences’ for the sale of tear gas, irritant and smoke grenades to Greece. These licences allow an unlimited transfer of these weapons, without having to publish the total amount delivered.

1.  The neoconservative Henry Jackson Society has paid damages and made an apology to a UK-based Muslim TV station, after the foreign policy think tank accused Huda Television Ltd of having a ‘radical agenda’.

A HJS report in 2018 falsely identified nine ‘extremist’ speakers – whose profiles were listed on an Egyptian TV station of a similar name – as appearing on Huda Television Limited’s channel. “This was incorrect…We apologise to Huda Television Limited for all the incorrect statements made, and in light of this, we have agreed to pay Huda Televison Limited damages and legal costs,” HJS said in a statement.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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