Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 4, October 2022

The news you didn’t see this week…

1.Ambulance strike ballot begins as 15,000 workers vote on industrial action

More than 15,000 ambulance workers across 11 trusts in England and Wales have begun voting on strike action this week.

Thousands more NHS workers will also be balloted across other NHS trusts, with more votes set to follow.

Rachel Harrison, GMB Acting National Secretary, said: “Ambulance workers don’t do this lightly – and this would be the biggest ambulance strike for 30 years.

“But more than ten years of pay cuts, plus the cost-of-living crisis, means workers can’t make ends meet. They are desperate.

“But this is much more about patient safety at least as much about pay. Delays up to 26 hours and 135,000 vacancies across the NHS mean a third of GMB ambulance workers think a delay they’ve been involved with has led to a death.

“Ambulance workers have been telling the Government for years things are unsafe. No one is listening. What else can they do?”

2. New prime minister must improve pay if he wants stronger NHS, says UNISON

Responding to the speech by new prime minister Rishi Sunak as he arrived at Downing Street yesterday, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “No one can be under any illusion about the challenges that lie ahead. The previous prime minister has certainly made the situation a whole lot worse.

“If Rishi Sunak really wants the NHS to become stronger, it must be given the resources needed to tackle the growing workforce crisis.

“That starts with giving health employees a second pay rise to stop experienced staff from heading for the door. Unless the government acts soon, a strike across the NHS looks increasingly likely this winter.”

3. Plaid Cymru and Wales Green Party create Future Cymru Forum to grow case for independence

The leaders of the two leading pro-independence parties in Wales have announced the formation of a new Forum to grow the case for independence. The Forum will consult, research and develop a ground-breaking body of work to build a “bridge of ideas to the future”. Plaid Cymru and The Wales Green Party will engage widely, working together to help build the economic, social and environmental case for an independent Wales.

Announcing the creation of ‘Future Cymru Forum’ at the party’s Annual Conference, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said it was further evidence of a “genuine agenda of reaching out to others, across the party divide, to join hands to find a shared route to independence that will produce tangible benefits for all our people.”

The aim is produce outputs that will be inspirational but grounded in robust evidence and argument that complements and supports the work of other groups.

4. ‘Energy For All’ petition of over 650,000 signatures delivered to Downing Street

A petition calling for an overhaul of our energy pricing structure was delivered to Downing Street last week. The ‘Energy For All’ petition signed by over 650,000 people, calls for a universal, free amount of energy that would cover everyone’s basic necessities of heating, lighting and cooking. This would be paid for by ending the millions of pounds spent daily on fossil fuel subsidies, windfall taxes on excess profits of energy companies and higher prices for profligate energy use.

The event, organised by Fuel Poverty Action, included a rally and march attended by around 100 people.

Stuart Bretherton, Energy For All Campaign Coordinator, said: ‘Millions of people will face fuel poverty this winter, with prices sitting at double what they were last year, and now renewed uncertainty over how high they will climb next year. Energy For All would deliver justice and security to all consumers now and in the future, by ensuring everyone’s basic needs are met and that steps are taken to address the climate crisis. Ordinary people cannot keep footing the bill for crises created by the wealthy, it’s time for the big polluters and profiteers to pay their share.”

5. Wales announces publicly-owned renewable energy developer

The Welsh minister for climate change, Julie James, yesterday announced a state-owned energy developer in response to energy insecurity, the cost-of-living crisis and the increasing threats posed by the climate and nature emergencies.

Speaking in the Senedd yesterday afternoon, the Minister said energy profits created in Wales will deliver greater benefit for people in Wales.

Surplus funds generated through the new developer will go back into the public purse to be reinvested in improving energy efficiency in homes in Wales and creating good quality, home grown, clean energy jobs.

Delivering on aims to have more than one gigawatt of locally-owned generation by 2030, the new state-owned energy developer will scale up renewable energy rollout, initially through the development of onshore wind projects on the Welsh Government woodland estate.

6. Education leaders from 24,000 schools demand Government action on school meals 

School and education leaders representing more than a million teachers, support staff and others working with children have embarked on a new drive to protect their pupils from the cost-of-living crisis with a letter to Downing Street demanding Free School Meals are offered to all children in families receiving universal credit in England. 

The demand from the leaders of 12 different organisations and follows on from publication of The Food Foundation’s data this week showing a rapidly worsening crisis with almost 14 million people – four million of them children, living in households where lack of food is an issue.

It is also part of the continuing Feed the Future campaign launched this month to highlight the plight of children living in poverty but not currently eligible for free school meals.

‘Hunger is now a real issue in our schools,’ says the letter which has also been sent to the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. ‘We must make sure that every child has the nutrition they need to be able to learn and thrive…. We urge you to act.’

The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales are committed to providing Free School Meals for all primary school children, as well as more generous breakfast provision. There has been no such commitment to offer the same opportunities to children in England. In England the threshold to get Free School Meals is a combined household income of less than £7,400 before benefits.

The current restrictive policy means 800,000 children living in poverty in England are not eligible for Free School Meals.

7. Strike action to hit Immingham oil terminal as GMB members reject ‘insulting’ pay offer

GMB members at oil logistics contractor Briggs Marine will begin strike action on Friday.

Workers voted overwhelmingly for industrial action at the oil logistics firm in Immingham, near Grimsby, after rejecting the company’s below inflation pay offer.

Briggs Marine is one of the largest oil logistics companies in the UK, unloading fuel from all over the world and distributing for use across the UK.

The strike is expected to have a significant impact on operations at the terminal.

David Shamma, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “This industrial action was completely avoidable, but Briggs Marine management refuse to satisfy our members on pay.

“The latest offer is well below inflation and is a kick in the teeth for a committed and loyal workforce who carried this company through covid. It’s quite frankly insulting.

“The fact that the company has also unlawfully deducted wages from GMB members pay packets relating to a separate matter is a deliberate attempt to intimidate them from taking part in lawful industrial action and is an absolute disgrace.”

8. York MP calls time on Ministerial payoffs with a new Bill

Today, Rachael Maskell MP will present a Bill to Parliament to bring an end to the Ministerial gravy train, as the departing Prime Minister and other Ministers leaving Government are entitled to eye-watering pay-offs.

The ‘Former Ministers and Prime Ministers (Abolition of Payments) Bill’ will prevent Ministers claiming a quarter of their Ministerial salary when leaving office, even if they have served for a matter of weeks or even days. This allowance entitles former Cabinet Members to receive £16,876.25, a Minister of State £7,920 and a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to claim £5,595.75 on departing Government, even if they had only just been appointed. These Ministers will revert to being backbench MPs, still on significant salaries, or if leaving Parliament would be entitled to the terms all MPs are able to access.

Truss is also entitled to £18,860 for just 44 days as Prime Minister, and she will also be entitled to a £115,000 a year allowance to run an office for the rest of her life.

Rachael Maskell MP said: “When people cannot afford food for their stomachs or warmth for their homes, it is sickening to see the former Prime Minister and past Ministers help themselves to large pay-offs. The churn in Ministers over the ​course of the last few years has been significant, not to mention 4 Prime Ministerial resignations since 2016. With more than 50 MPs resigning to force Boris Johnson out of office, the cost would have run into £100,000s. Ms. Truss’ time in office would have led to similar sums being paid, not least to herself. It is not right that she is entitled to what is essentially a reward for crashing the economy with her mini-budget.”

9. Real wages worth over £60 a month less than in 2008

The TUC today accused the government of presiding over the “longest and harshest squeeze on earnings in modern history”.

Today’s annual pay statistics published by the ONS show that real wages were worth £63 a month less in April 2022 than they were in April 2008.

The TUC says this squeeze on pay has got worst since this April, with family budgets under even more pressure since the spring from soaring prices.

The union body described the Conservatives’ record on pay as “shameful”.

The TUC estimates that had pay risen in line with its pre-financial crisis trend, the average worker would be £181 a week better off today than in 2008.

Commenting on the figures, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Pay packets are still worth less than 14 years ago. That is shameful.

“The Conservatives have presided over the longest and harshest squeeze on earnings in modern history.

“This has left millions of families without a safety net as bills and prices have skyrocketed.

“If we don’t get pay rising across the economy, UK workers face two decades of lost living standards.

“We need a government that will boost the minimum wage to £15 an hour as soon as possible, fund decent pay rises for all public sector workers and introduce fair pay agreements for whole industries.”

10. Revealed: Two-thirds of small boat channel crossings would have asylum claims accepted

Most people crossing into the UK on small boats would have successful asylum claims if they were processed, according to new research by IPPR.

Approximately 70 per cent of people who arrived in small boats since 2018 would be granted asylum if their claims were properly considered.

However, as things stand, around two fifths (43 per cent) of claims that have received an initial decision have not been considered properly because the government is instead seeking to remove them to a safe third country.

Marley Morris, IPPR associate director, said: “Our research shows that the overwhelming majority of people coming to the UK on small boats make a claim for asylum. We estimate that most people crossing the Channel would be successful in their asylum claims if they were properly considered. More people apply for asylum in France than the UK, but those crossing the Channel are likely to have specific reasons – for instance, they may have family or community ties in the UK.

“The government’s approach to the rise in small boats arriving in the UK has so far rested on deterrence tactics. But these tactics have failed. In order to address the rise in Channel crossings, we need an approach grounded in the evidence for why more and more people are making this dangerous journey.”

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