Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 5, December 2021

The news you didn't see this week...

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1.Current uncertainty leaving millions in limbo

Responding to the health secretary’s comments that there will be no new restrictions before the new year, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people need to know the government has their back. But the current uncertainty is leaving millions in limbo.

“Cases continue to climb and demand on our high streets is slumping – yet workers still aren’t getting the support they need. Every day we are hearing from workers whose shifts are being cancelled and even some who are being sent home without pay.

“That’s why ministers must bring back a new targeted furlough scheme which covers at least 80 per cent of workers’ wages, and guarantees that no-one furloughed is paid less than the minimum wage.”

2. Chancellor challenged to match Scottish government’s Covid funding package

The SNP has challenged the Treasury to match the Scottish Government’s package of support announced to tackle the Omicron variant – which would also then generate more funding for Scotland at this crucial moment.

In Scotland, the Government set out a £375 million package to help businesses impacted by the latest protective measures. Meanwhile, the Treasury announced a £1 billion package which has been met with criticism and dismay from business leaders as falling short of the support needed.

A breakdown of the funding reveals that if the Scottish Government’s £375 million support package was replicated by the UK government it would increase the funds available to support businesses from £1 billion to £4.6 billion.

Commenting, the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said: “The latest protective measures to tackle the Omicron variant are understandably challenging, but they are necessary in this difficult moment in the pandemic.

“The Scottish Government is taking all the steps it can within its powers to protect lives and the NHS and to support business – with its recent announcement of a £375 million package of support to help sectors, despite Treasury rules meaning it can’t borrow money.”

3. Almost £15 million spent on unelected House of Lords last year

Almost £15million of taxpayers’ money was spent on the unelected House of Lords last year according to shocking new statistics – almost £700 per debate contribution.

Analysis conducted by the House of Commons Library found that a total of £14.92million of taxpayers’ money was spent directly on unelected members of the House of Lords – which included allowances and expenses.

The analysis found that, between August 2020 and July 2021, the total daily allowance claimed by members of the House of Lords reached £13.2million. In that same time period, there were 22,140 debate contributions – working out at almost £600 (£596) per contribution in allowance claims alone.

4. Rich countries have received more vaccines in run-up to Christmas than African countries have all year

More doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered to the EU, the UK and the United States in the six-week run up to Christmas than African countries have received all year, new analysis from the People’s Vaccine Alliance has revealed.

Campaigners have warned that governments risk trapping the world in an endless cycle of variants, boosters, restrictions and even lockdowns, if low vaccination rates are allowed to persist in the global south.

Low and middle-income countries must be allowed to manufacture vaccines themselves to end vaccine inequality and prevent variants from derailing future Christmases, campaigners have said.

5. Boris Johnson’s government ‘has licensed £2.8 billion in arms sales to human rights abusers’

The government has licensed £2.8 billion worth of arms to human rights abusers since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, according to new analysis.

The findings, compiled by the Scottish Greens, compared government arms export data from the time period with a list of countries ranked as “not free” by Freedom House, a US-government-funded human rights monitoring group.

The largest buyer of British arms is Saudi Arabia, which accounts for £1.7bn worth of the value of arms licensed. Meanwhile, Qatar has bought £391 million worth of arms, including ammunition, components for combat aircraft and sniper rifles.

6. Zero hour contracts on the rise under Tories

The SNP has said only independence can protect Scottish workers from outdated UK government employment laws – following new statistics which show that the number of people on zero-hour contracts in Scotland has risen by 11,000 in 2021.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that between the months of July and September of this year, around 81,000 people in Scotland were employed on a zero-hour contract – a 0.4% increase on last year. making up 3% of the country’s employment.

Despite the increase, Scotland still has a lower percentage of people on zero-hour contracts than the UK.

7. Over 300,000 sign petition demanding government remove Clause 9 from the Nationality and Borders Bill

Over 300,000 people have signed a petition demanding the government remove clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders bill which would mean that the home secretary would be exempt from having to inform someone when depriving them of their citizenship if it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations, or perceived to be in another kind of ‘public interest’.

The change could mean people could have their citizenship revoked without knowing, with minorities and Muslims in particular affected.

8. Mail Online breached accuracy clause with headline claiming there are “British towns that are no-go areas for white people”, IPSO rules

Last week, we reported how Mail Online was found to have breached the accuracy clause of the Editors code with its inflammatory and inaccurate headline that claimed: “British towns that are no-go areas for white people.”

IPSO found that the website was in breach of the accuracy clause. We thought we’d reshare the story given that it hasn’t featured much in the right-wing press.

9. Unite: Sunak turning his back on aviation workers again

Unite the union has hit out at the government for once again failing to recognise the impact of Covid restrictions on the UK’s aviation sector, a key source of local jobs and central to the country’s economy.

The union said that the government is again failing to support the sector at this critical time of further Covid restrictions, and called for chancellor Rishi Sunak to act to help aviation and aerospace through the uncertainty generated by the Omicron variant, so that it can rebuild sustainably and with resilience, in line with Unite’s blueprint for aviation.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Throughout the pandemic ministers have repeatedly failed to provide the support needed for an industry and workforce that are central to our economy.

“Jobs have been lost, pay and conditions cut and the future of world class UK aviation put at risk because the government has failed to provide the sector-specific support needed. Time and again, aviation workers have been abandoned by this government and left to pay the price. It is simply not good enough.”

10. Cambridge bus drivers have voted to strike in the first week of January

Bus drivers in Cambridge have voted to strike in the first week of January.  Cambus drivers, who have not had a pay rise since April 2019, are planning to hold 10 days of strike action next month, starting on Tuesday, January 4.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We will be standing 100 per cent behind our members at Cambus who have not had a pay rise since April 2019. They have suffered a dramatic cut in pay in real terms, especially as inflation has now reached a decade-high of 7.1 per cent and household bills have gone through the roof.

“Despite Stagecoach pleading poverty, the company remains extremely profitable with its latest accounts revealing the group made a profit of £58.4million. The company also has £875million in liquid assets.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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