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

The news you didn’t see this week…

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

1. Unite warns that National Accident Helpline is masquerading as friend of construction workers to boost profits

Unite is warning building workers not to be duped by a new campaign launched by no win no fee legal company the National Accident Helpline.

The new campaign, called Rights on Sites, purports to offer assistance to construction workers when they suffer an injury on site. It fails to mention that by using the services of the National Accident Helpine the injured worker will lose a large slice of their compensation if their claim is successful.

The Rights on Sites offer compares poorly with the fact that when Unite takes a personal injury case for a member who is injured at or away from work, the member obtains the service free of charge and receives 100 per cent of the compensation awarded.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “When an offer appears to be too good to be true it usually is. The National Accident Helpline has not launched Rights on Sites out of the goodness of its heart but as a cynical attempt to boost profits.

“Unite is the union that puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members front and centre and that commitment applies fully to all construction workers.”

2. ASDA faces threat of strike action as workers balloted over pay freeze

Asda faces potential industrial action as GMB Union ballots workers over Asda’s failure to make a meaningful pay offer.

The supermarket giant failed to offer distribution staff a meaningful pay offer – which, with inflation rampant, is a kick in the teeth for their key workers.  In 2020 Asda’s directors trousered £12.6 million in pay and share based payments – a whopping 30 per cent increase on the previous year. Meanwhile the company turned an operating profit of £486 million in the year to 31 December 2020.

ASDA and GMB are currently locked in a long-running equal pay claim on behalf of 40,000 Asda workers over whether the predominantly female shop floor workforce deserves equal pay to that of those in the distribution centre.  

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “Asda workers turned up throughout the covid pandemic risking their lives to keep the nation fed – as well as helping the company turn a profit of almost £500 million.

“Staff who saw colleagues lose their lives to covid are not having their legitimate demands for a pay rise treated seriously.

“Asda now say GMB members pay claim is ‘unaffordable’ and yet their hard work and sacrifice helped directors trouser almost £10 million between them.”

3. UK has delivered just 20% of “meagre” dose donation target

One year on from the administration of the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the UK, campaigners have condemned the British government for obstructing efforts to vaccinate the world, contributing to the conditions that allowed the Omicron variant to emerge.

The UK has donated just 20 million of the 100 million doses promised to low and middle-income countries, equivalent to 20%. The doses donated so far have come from Covax, a scheme that has primarily served to distribute doses to low-income countries after rich nations like the UK cut bilateral deals to secure doses from pharmaceutical companies.

Campaigners say the target was already “meagre” and the UK has compounded problems by preventing poorer countries from manufacturing vaccines themselves.

Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now, said: “It’s hard to believe now, but this time last year there was some hope that the vaccine breakthrough would spur a cooperative and internationalist response to this crisis. But, one year on, the British government has obstructed efforts to vaccinate the world, ultimately prolonging the pandemic.”

4. Scotland being shafted out of £1.3BN EU funding – over £500 per household

The SNP has blasted the UK Government for shafting Scotland out of more than £1.3billion in post-Brexit funding while Ireland is benefitting by almost a billion Euros from the EU’s Brexit fund.

During the Brexit referendum campaign, Boris Johnson and his right-hand man Michael Gove promised that the Scottish Government would be given £1.5bn in funding to spend on Scottish priorities when the UK left the EU.

So far, only £172 million in so-called ‘levelling up’ cash has been allocated – a massive £1.3 billion less than that referendum promise – and 21 of Scotland’s 32 council areas have received not a single penny. That equals almost £530 per household in Scotland.

In contrast, it has been announced that Ireland, as an independent member of the EU, is receiving a financial injection from Brussels of almost a billion Euros to help mitigate the impact of Brexit through economic support, job creation and training.

SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford said: “The Tory government’s continued short-changing of Scotland through crucial post-Brexit funding is shameful.

“Previously EU structural funds contributed to projects across all Local Authorities while now they are forced to compete with each other and two thirds have received no funding at all. The Tories have consistently failed to deliver on their Brexit promises and are now leaving the devolved governments and councils in the dark.

“Tory disdain for devolution is limitless. They are dictating where and how spending is allocated and bypassing our democratically elected Scottish Government which previously set priorities for EU funding on behalf of the people of Scotland.”

5. Plaid Cymru bid to force Westminster to bring anti-refugee Bill in line with Welsh Nation of Sanctuary plan

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader and Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP, on Tuesday urged the UK Government to support her amendment that would bring the Nationality and Borders Bill in line with Wales’ Nation of Sanctuary Plan.

Ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on the Bill, the Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP called for an asylum system “based on humanity – not hostility”.

Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “This draconian Bill makes a mockery of our aspiration in Wales to become a Nation of Sanctuary. Despite evidence that the overwhelming majority of people crossing the Channel are genuine asylum seekers, Priti Patel is on a war path to make these people’s lives as harrowing as possible.

“After the horrific deaths in the Channel two weeks ago, it is reprehensible that this Tory Government are continuing their attacks on vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. Now more than ever, we need an asylum system based on humanity – not hostility.”

6.”Glasgow City Council is failing our most vulnerable children.” Foster Care Workers Demand Action over Devastating 20% Cut in Child Allowance

As Glasgow City Council begins deliberations over its 2022 budget to be announced in February, local foster care workers with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are calling on them to redress its 10 year freeze to the child’s allowance which has impoverished some of Glasgow’s most vulnerable children and was revealed via a Freedom of Information Request. This launches the Fairness for Foster Carers campaign for more rights and protections for Glasgow foster carers and the children in their care.

After inflation, the freeze equates to a 23.12 percent cut in the foster child allowance, leaving many foster carers struggling to subsidise costs of care themselves. In many cases this is not possible as pay has also been frozen for 13 years, resulting in a 30 percent real pay cut.

Kenny Millard, chair, Foster Care Workers’ Branch (IWGB), said: “For a decade now Glasgow City Council has failed this city’s most vulnerable children and now dedicated foster carers are being driven either into poverty or out of service all together because they simply cannot afford to continue subsidising that failure. An investment in Glasgow’s children is an investment in its future. By ending the freeze Glasgow City Council can help tackle the crisis in foster care, lessen pressure on public services, boost the local economy and give every child in Glasgow the start they deserve here, where they belong.”

7.Security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital strike in dispute for equal rights

Security guards at Great Ormond Street hospital held a rally yesterday as part of their three-day strike to demand equality.

During the pandemic, security guards at the hospital worked above and beyond, doing the additional work of porters and admin staff on occasion. Yet GOSH are refusing to meet with them or with their union UVW.

The security guards are demanding full NHS pay and terms & conditions including annual leave, sick pay, parental leave and career progression in line with the opportunities offered to their counterparts.

Petros Elia, general secretary for UVW, said: “Despite repeated attempts to talk to GOSH Trustees we have been met with silence. That’s why our members will be going on strike which GOSH has had every opportunity to avert. And they will have our full support to fight for as long as it takes until they win what they deserve: dignity and equality.”

8. Reclaim Party’s first Councillor fears “Muslim take over” and expresses support for Tommy Robinson on Facebook

The former Tory Anthony Allen, who defected to Lawrence Fox’s Reclaim Party (becoming its first elected official), has a Facebook profile littered with vile anti-Muslim sentiment and abusive messages:

In 2019, in the replies to a post in which Allen referred to former Prime Minister Theresa May as a “vile leech”, he also described his preference for someone with “hardline Christian values” to stop the “Muslim take over”, while in another he said that “we may as well change the name of the country to Englandishtan”.

Allen appears to idolise the anti-Muslim activist and convicted thug Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), in one post declaring “TOMMY FOR PM!”, while in another he said “Go on Tommy lad! It’s about time someone rattled the birdcage at Westminster and gave those vultures something to really squawk over”.

Gregory Davis, Researcher at HOPE not hate, the UK’s leading antifascism campaign group, said: “The vile views that Reclaim’s first councillor has espoused on his social media have no place in our politics. From showing support for the far right thug, Tommy Robinson, to talking about a ‘Muslim takeover’, it is clear that Anthony Allen – a former Conservative Party councillor – holds very similar views to those of the far right extremists seeking to exploit and divide our society.”

9. Luton’s Vauxhall factory facing disruption as Mitie workers strike over ‘poverty pay’ rates

Workers employed by the outsourcing giant Mitie, working on a contract at the Vauxhall factory in Luton, will begin strike action this week in a dispute over pay. The workers, who are employed in cleaning roles as well as in the jig and tool departments, are paid as little as £9 an hour, which is just nine pence above the national minimum wage.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Mitie is a multimillion pound company, it is shocking that workers are on such low rates of pay and it is disgraceful that the company is not currently prepared to address these issues.

“Unite’s absolute priority is the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. While the workers at Mitie at the Luton Vauxhall plant are in dispute they will be receiving the full and total support of the union.”

10.Harrods workers cancel Xmas strike after winning almost 30% pay rise

Christmas strikes have been averted at luxury department store Harrods with hundreds of restaurant workers declaring victory in pay dispute after accepting pay rises of almost a third.

Harrods’ offer to take pay above the London Living Wage came days into a ballot for strike action which could have seen workers walk out over the festive period.

Before United Voices of the World (UVW) began this dispute, the Qatari royal’s department store had been paying restaurant workers poverty wages of around £9 an hour.

Mihaly, restaurant worker at Harrods and UVW member, said: “After weeks of organising with our union UVW, we are delighted that our bosses have engaged with us and recognised our hard work. We will be getting the pay rise we have fought for and that we deserve – good news for us and workers beyond.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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