Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 2, November 2021

The news you didn’t see this week…

Radical Roundup

Your Wednesday fix of under-reported news… Got a story tip? Email us: [email protected]

1. COP26: Unions warn UK Presidency that neglect of workers will lead to failure

Trade union delegates at COP26 have written an urgent letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma warning him that he is putting progress at risk by neglecting the need for international commitments to a ‘just transition’.

The Paris Agreement (2015) committed nations to taking account of “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.

Reflecting the concerns expressed in the letter to the COP President, the following joint statement by the TUC, Scottish TUC and Wales TUC, with support from affiliated unions, called on the UK Presidency to build on the commitment made in Paris. They wrote: “The UK COP President Alok Sharma MP has repeatedly committed to just transition as an essential component in rapidly moving the world away from fossil fuels. But so far, the UK Presidency has invested little political capital including just transition in the climate agreement negotiations – leaving workers around the globe out in the cold.”

2. Bin workers in Sheffield to vote to strike permanently after Veolia ‘opens cheque book’ to agency staff

Bin workers in Sheffield have voted to strike permanently after Veolia management broke the bank to bring in agency staff to undermine industrial action.  Refuse collectors across the Steel City downed tools on Monday in anger at a below inflation pay offer from Veolia – amounting to real terms pay cut.

Prior to the industrial action yesterday, Veolia forked out vast sums for agency staff to try and break the strike. Notice has been served on the employer that from November 22 workers will strike all day very day until the dispute is resolved. More than 200,000 homes could be affected by the industrial action.

Lee Parkinson, GMB Organiser, said: “Veolia needs to stop opening the cheque book trying to break this strike using out of town labour and get back to the table to negotiate an end to this dispute.  

“The council can order that now and need to if they want to avoid this battle turning into a war.” 

3. COP26: Many countries unable to pull out all the stops without climate finance, campaigners say

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, says many countries are unable to pull out all the stops to tackle climate change, because they still haven’t received the climate finance promised for more than a decade. He said: “The global south is already making sacrifices every day on the frontline of climate change. It’s for rich countries like the UK and the US to put aside corporate greenwashing and reckon with the economic drivers of the climate crisis.

“The UNFCCC can no longer wash its hands of the global economy and trade system’s impact on our planet. If rich nations want to keep 1.5 alive, they need to hand over grant-based climate finance reparations that account for historic emissions, cancel global south debt, and stop fossil fuel companies from suing governments through corporate courts built into trade deals like the Energy Charter Treaty.”

4. Two in five disabled workers pushed into hardship during pandemic

Two in five (40 per cent) disabled workers have been pushed into financial hardship over the last year, according to new TUC polling. The polling – carried out for the union body by BritainThinks – shows how disabled workers’ living standards have been “hit hardest” by Covid-19.

And leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire is adding its voice to TUC’s, publishing new research which shows the continuing stigma against disabled workers, and calling for action to break down barriers to employment for disabled people.

The global disability charity says that its own research reveals that disabled workers say they have been left behind by the Covid-19 recovery. The study found that the vast majority (89 per cent) of disabled young people aged 18-24 years old said that their work had been affected by the pandemic, and that one in five employers (19 per cent) would be less likely to employ a disabled person than a non-disabled person.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Disabled workers have been hit hardest by Covid-19. Many have been pushed into financial hardship and left without a safety net. With a cost-of-living crisis looming we need urgent action from ministers.

“As we saw with the last financial crisis, disabled people are all too often first in line for redundancy, and those who keep hold of their jobs face a yawning pay gap.”

5. SNP call for official investigation into Tory smear campaign

The SNP has called for an official investigation into the “coordinated smear campaign” by the Tory government against the Standards Commissioner – in wake of the Tory corruption scandal.

In a letter to UK Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Ian Blackford MP said it is essential that an investigation is launched into the “unacceptable attacks and conspiracy” against Kathryn Stone OBE, and the independent parliamentary standards process, by Tory government ministers and officials, which appear to have been coordinated by Number 10.

The SNP Westminster Leader said the attacks had brought the UK government into disrepute and raised questions about whether the Standards Commissioner had been targeted by Number 10 over investigations into Boris Johnson’s personal misconduct.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said: “Boris Johnson’s government is the sleaziest in decades – and the Prime Minister is right at the centre of the Tory corruption and cronyism scandal that has engulfed Westminster.

“The coordinated smear campaign by Tory ministers and officials against the Standards Commissioner has brought the UK government into disrepute – and made the Prime Minister look like he’s running some sort of corrupt banana republic.”

6. Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price blasts draft COP26 deal ahead of summit visit

The draft COP26 decision is “just an agreement to kick the can down the road”, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS has said. The first draft of an agreement or “cover decision” setting out how countries will cut emissions to avoid temperature rises of above 1.5C has been published today.

The draft is seven pages long and has been criticised by environmental organisations such as Greenpeace for failing to mention fossil fuels.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS, who is currently travelling to Glasgow today by train and will visit the summit tomorrow on its penultimate day, said the gulf between world leaders’ rhetoric and the reality presented in the draft was “astonishing”.

Price said: “The gulf between world leaders’ rhetoric at the start of the talks and the reality today in black and white is astonishing. Today’s draft COP26 deal is just an agreement to kick the can down the road.

“With our forests burning, our seas acidifying and our world warming, there is no more time. Our climate, planet and marginalised communities simply cannot afford to wait.

“There are no firm dates or targets to phase out fossil fuels in this text, despite damning analysis by the Climate Action Tracker yesterday showing that pledges made for 2030 will put the world on track for 2.4 degrees of warming by 2100. That would be well beyond the United Nations targeted cap of 1.5 degrees and would have catastrophic effects on our planet.”

7. 6 in 10 Brits want to end fossil fuel finance

More than 6 in 10 people in the UK support policies to stop financial firms fuelling the climate crisis, new polling has revealed.

61% of 2000 UK adults surveyed by Opinium Research were in favour of ‘stopping banks, insurers and other private financiers from supporting and profiting from fossil fuel extraction’, while only 9% oppose such measures.

The polling comes a week after the Bank of England announced that it will look into adjusting the amount of capital banks hold to reflect climate risk through next year, a measure which could help stem investment into fossil fuels. It also follows 85 UK lawmakers writing to the Bank of England in October, calling on Britain’s central bank to regulate fossil fuel finance.

Fran Boait, executive director of research and campaign group Positive Money, said: “While finance has been high on the agenda at COP26, it is disappointing that there has been more focus on questionable pledges from bankers, rather than actual regulation to stop banks continuing to profit from the destruction of our planet.

“Governments and regulators like the Bank of England are finally accepting that stronger rules on fossil fuel lending may be necessary, but they are still not taking action at the pace and scale needed to avert the worst impacts of climate breakdown.

8. North West housing association workers begin strike ballot over pay

Members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, employed by Onward Housing and Hyndburn Homes Repairs Ltd have begun balloting for strike action over pay.

The 230 workers at the housing association, who are based at depots in Accrington, Bolton, Manchester, Liverpool, Runcorn and Stockport, primarily undertake housing maintenance and repairs work in social housing as well as managing the housing stock and the delivery of service to tenants.

The workers have been offered a one per cent pay increase which is in effect a huge pay cut as the RPI inflation rate is currently 4.9 per cent.

Unite regional officer Colin Carr said: “Our members play an essential role in ensuring that tenants’ homes are well maintained.

“These are highly skilled workers who are dedicated to their jobs and they are not going to accept a real terms pay cut especially when the pay of directors is rapidly increasing.”

9. Public services can lead the way to net zero but not without government funding

Getting the UK’s public services across the net zero line will require £140bn of government funding by 2035, says new research published by UNISON.

If the government’s 2050 target is to be met, the UK’s hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, care homes, town halls, leisure centres, police stations, courts, social housing, plus water, transport and environmental services all need to be part of the plan, says the union.

The report, Getting to Net Zero in Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation, says that without government funding, public services still reeling from a decade of austerity, will struggle to decarbonise.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea will say: “The cost of moving across to greener public services won’t come cheap, but there’s not a moment to lose.

“The sooner a start can be made, the quicker emissions will begin to come down and public service bills reduce. But the pace of green change needs to increase and significantly too.”

10. Greens raise concerns into COP protest policing

Scottish Greens justice spokesperson Maggie Chapman MSP has raised concerns about the proportionality of policing tactics used against some protestors during COP26 with the Scottish Government.

At Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament the MSP aired concerns about the use of “kettling” by police against peaceful protestors.

Commenting, Maggie Chapman MSP said: “I appreciate that operational matters rest with the chief constable, but this parliament sets the limits within which the police operate, and it is important to understand the government’s position in relation to those limits.

“Police officers declare to, “uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people”. I am concerned that some of the tactics deployed during the COP have not taken account of those important principles. The use of kettling tactics on peaceful protestors seems wholly disproportionate.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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