Solidarity 578, 20 January 2021

Stop Tory plan to scrap Working Time Directive!

What Brexit means is demonstrated clearly by fresh Tory plans to assault workers’ rights. The government fought hard for the right to diverge from EU standards for a reason: and workers’ rights are among its first targets. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is putting together plans to scrap the 48-hour week “working time directive”; cut rest break entitlements; cut holiday pay entitlements by excluding overtime pay from how they’re calculated; and end the requirement for employers to keep proper records on working hours. Labour movement leaders, both unions and Labour...

British gas workers strike again from 20 January

At a public online rally on 18 January for the British Gas engineers striking against “fire-and-rehire” attacks on their pay and conditions (see page 24), Paul Vowles, a British Gas striker from the West Midlands, said he was “bursting with pride” at the action he and his workmates have taken so far. He criticised British Gas bosses for “hiding behind the pandemic” in order to force through cuts. He also highlighted the effectiveness of the social media campaign in support of the dispute, especially messages of support from strikers’ families which emphasise the impact the proposed new...

Brutality as beautiful

The Morning Star aspires to being a left-wing alternative to mainstream tabloids. Thus the paper includes sports pages, arts reviews, a crossword, a gardening column, and even a cookery spot (“The Commie Chef”). The paper’s boxing coverage is by one John Wight, a failed Hollywood screenwriter and well-known figure on the Scottish left. The title of his book This Boxing Game: A Journey in Beautiful Brutality gives a strong clue as to how he regards the “sport”. A recent Wight column in the Morning Star (“Boxing as violence”) purports to examine what he calls the “contradiction that many writers...

Lipstick and the far right

Portuguese social media is filled with images of men and women wearing red lipstick, after the leader of populist far-right party Chega insulted Marisa Matias for her “very red lips.” Matias is the Left Bloc candidate in Portugal’s 21 January presidential election, and a current MEP. Chega’s presidential candidate, André Ventura, who opposes the Portuguese lockdown and organised demonstrations supported by neo-Nazi groups, went on to accuse Matias of “not doing very well in terms of image, performance”, adding that she painted her lips “as if it were a joke.” Matias responded to the sexist...

Corbyn project launches

Jeremy Corbyn’s “Project for Peace and Justice” had 7,000 log in for its launch rally online on Sunday 17 January. Sadly, the proposals on the four areas chosen — Green New Deal, Economic Security, International Justice, Democratic Society — extended only to a promise to have experts devise new policies, plus calls to sign petitions, help local food banks, and favour “peace and diplomacy” rather than “conflict and inequality”. Jeremy Corbyn also plugged the Morning Star. There was little mention of working-class action (beyond a general appeal from chair Christine Blower to support trade...

Activist agenda

Safe and Equal is campaigning for full isolation pay for all, and particularly for careworkers. It calls on supporters to lobby councils about careworkers. The first stage is to email councillors with a model letter. Second stage: put a question to the health and social care scrutiny committee. Inform Safe and Equal about the reply you get. A new leaflet is coming out soon: consider door-todoor leafleting. Email Safe and Equal if you want to join its next open organising meeting 6pm, Wednesday 27 January. Free Our Unions is agitating for the Labour left, in its emerging criticism of Keir...

Carbon capture and storage? Not a help yet

A debate has been smouldering on about what role, if any, “Carbon Capture and Storage” (CCS) technologies should play in ecological transition. CCS denotes chains of technology for capturing carbon from the chimneys of factories and power plants. The chimney is fitted with solvent filters, which much of the CO2 dissolves into — CCS’s coal industry proponents claim up to 90%. For storage, the solvent is then pumped to somewhere where it is heated up, forcing the CO2 out again, where it is stored, perhaps underground. A small amount may be used for fizzy drinks, in greenhouses for plants, and...

Why respect the new virus rules?

Readers report arguments with workmates and neighbours over the virus restrictions. How should we respond? “I’m young and fit, and my friends are all young and fit too. Why should we not socialise a little, when the chances of serious hurt from us getting the virus are so small?” The virus has mutated, and is up to 70% more contagious than it was. Hundreds of people are dying of Covid every day in the UK. There are chains of transmission. Most young people will not be seriously affected by Covid, but some will be. And even people who have the virus without symptoms can spread it. One young...

Clampdown forces Hong Kong union to disband

On 15 January 2021, the Hong Kong Civil Service Bureau (CSB), undoubtedly acting under the instruction of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her Chinese Communist Party masters, issued a circular to all government departments All 180,000 workers in these departments will be required to take an oath of loyalty to the government and its “basic law”. If they take that oath and are later seen to be acting “disloyally”, they can face immediate disciplinary action. Monitoring of their activities might also feed into their prosecution under the National Security Law. Many civil service workers, including...

Fire service bosses scrap safe-working deal

Utterly disgracefully, fire and rescue service employers have unilaterally terminated an agreement with the FBU that allowed firefighters to safely assist our communities during the pandemic. It’s not just a matter of keeping our normal service running, so we can deal with fires, floods and other hazards safely. The agreement they are trying to torpedo is what has enabled us to perform additional tasks more directly related to Covid-19. Virtually since the start of the pandemic firefighters have volunteered to drive ambulances and assist paramedics, help with patient transfer, deliver packages...

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