News

British Airways threatens to fire and rehire

British Airways has seized on the pandemic crisis to attack the terms and conditions of its entire workforce. Using the claim that they need to impose redundancies, they are attempting to fire and re-hire every BA worker.

Only weeks into the furlough scheme, with the state picking up almost the whole wage bill for BA staff, the company issued redundancy notices to 42,000 staff, with a deadline of 14 June to accept a wholescale change to their contracts and pay.

Nationalise social care!

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, has called for politicians to “decisively answer” how social care can be reorganised to deal with the problems exposed by the Covid-19 crisis.

Stevens is no left-winger. He spent the best part of a decade as Chief Executive of US private healthcare corporation United Health. He has defended and promoted privatisation in the NHS. But so glaring is the problem of a radically fractured and privatised social care system that in his interview with the BBC he hinted at some kind of public ownership:

Hong Kong under the gun

The slogans of the long-running democracy movement in Hong Kong (above) are now declared to be crimes punishable by ten years or more in jail


The Chinese National People’s Congress passed the Hong Kong National Security Act on 30 June. It was then gazetted and enacted as Annex 3 of the HKSAR Basic Law at 11 pm the same day. It came into effect on 1 July 1st, the day Hong Kong was handed over by the UK to China exactly 23 years ago. 1 July is a public holiday in Hong Kong, and the day when anti-Government demonstration marches are held.

Support the Tower Hamlets strikers

On 6 July, Tower Hamlets Labour council intends to implement a plan, “Tower Rewards”, to sack its entire 4,000-strong workforce — carers, caretakers, children’s centre workers, housing and homelessness workers, refuse workers, cleaners, social workers, teaching assistants and many, many others — and re-employ only those who will accept substantially worse terms and conditions.

Key elements include reducing severance pay on redundancy; a longer working week; ending automatic incremental pay progression; cutting shift, premium and overtime payments; and abolishing the flexi scheme.

Jobcentre workers and Covid-19: Unsafe, unworkable, unacceptable

The Secretary of the State for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that she wants job centres to open from 4 July, with mass opening to the public on Monday 6 July.

This is unsafe, and unworkable — there is no means to safely distance in an interview with a claimant in a small job centre, and no mitigations and additional safety measures have been installed, such as perspex screens or additional hand sanitising facilities.

Top Labour official suspended

Novara Media reports ( bit.ly/novarareport) that half a dozen former senior Labour officials have been suspended in connection with the party’s leaked report on antisemitism (and in fact a wide range of other issues).

This includes Emilie Oldknow, who was reported to be Keir Starmer’s choice for new General Secretary of the party until the leaked report made that impossible.

A Labour NEC (National Executive) member told Novara:

Abuse of Uyghur women

China is carrying out forced sterilisations of women of ethnic minority populations in the western Xinjiang region, according to research published on 29 June.

More than one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are imprisoned in re-education camps. Uyghur women and other ethnic minorities are being threatened with internment in the camps for refusing to abort pregnancies that exceed birth quotas.

Hold Starmer to 2030!

On 29 June, a Labour spokesperson said that while Starmer “had supported” the 2019 Green New Deal policy, he would not commit to retaining the policy, and that the party’s position would be decided in “4 or 5 years” with the next manifesto.

This should ring serious alarm bells for the left and environmentalists, and reminds us of the need for an organised and vocal left Labour membership to hold leadership to account.

74 lashes for Iranian workers

42 workers at AzarAb Industries, in Iran’s industrial city of Arak, have been sentenced to one year in prison, 74 lashes, and one month of forced labour.

That is for a protest in 2019 against delayed wage payments after the firm was privatised. Workers’ wages have again not been paid in May and June 2020.

Non-payment of wages is commonplace in Iran, and so is jailing of workers who protest,

On 23 May, however, charges against Esmail Bakhshi, Mohammad Khanifar and Ali Nejati were dropped as part of a wider amnesty granted at Eid by the government.

Fighting police abuse and racism

The murder of George Floyd, which was the equivalent of a public lynching, is tragically nothing new. Police brutality against black people has always been there.

This time, however, it’s been caught on video. It was a slow, terrifying and painful death for Floyd. The amount of times he clearly said “I can’t breathe.…” and was ignored. Unconscionable that anyone could ignore that, let alone carry on causing it.

French workers on streets

French workers have come out on the streets again as the virus emergency eases there. On Tuesday 16 June, 18,000 health workers demonstrated in Paris and many thousands in other cities.

They were demanding a pay rise of €300 a month for low-waged health workers, increased staffing, and a moratorium on bed closures. They are calling for action from president Emmanuel Macron on his promise, made during the emergency, of a great renovation of French health care.

Block Netanyahu's plan to annex!

The timetable set for itself by Israel’s Netanyahu-Gantz coalition government provides for moving formally to annex to Israel large parts of the Palestinian West Bank this week, on 1 July.

Annexing large chunks of what is now “Area C”, under Israel control, will create new barriers to an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, other than in the sham form of a string of disconnected patches of land (Palestinian-inhabited cities, towns, villages) surrounded on all sides by Israeli territory and connected with each other only by Israeli-supervised channels.

New Covid plans

Doctors and scientists want a shift in virus-control policy. An open letter to all the political parties, on 23 June, by leading medical figures, called for an urgent effort to map new policies because "the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk".

Organise to make the future safe and equal for all

The great wave of street protests after the killing of George Floyd on 25 May still continues, but the pace looks like slowing. Activists will be thinking about how they can continue their efforts over the months and years needed to win and consolidate change.

That this killing has generated so broad a protest must be partly because a pandemic which has hit the worst-off hardest everywhere, and a wave of job cuts which has done similar, especially in the USA, are in everyone's minds.

Momentum poll: vote internationalist!

The Momentum National Coordinating Group elections close at noon on 30 June.

If you haven't yet, please vote for and promote the candidates who have backed Momentum Internationalists' socialist platform — Ruth Cashman and Ana Oppenheim in London, Abbie Clark in the Midlands, Kas Witana in the North, and Nadia Whittome in the Office Holders section. Ana, Abbie and Nadia are on the Forward Momentum slate. (All NCG candidates at bit.ly/mmcandidates.)

The results are out on Wednesday 1 July.

Momentum Renewal and Islamophobia

For all its rhetoric about working-class politics, the conservative-left and Stalinist faction in Momentum’s national coordinating group election, Momentum Renewal, has had little to say about the huge crises confronting the working class in the real world. Despite having a large network of supporters, including many people working full-time for Labour politicians, unions and the like, its blog has had only three posts.

Poll scores won't save jobs

A survey — see here — by manufacturing bosses’ organisation Make UK published on 15 June indicates a big flood of job cuts in the next three months, July to September.

They report only 11.7% of firms operating at capacity; 81% vs 39% predicting further falls in output in the next three months; a quarter of firms already having decided on redundancies; and only one-third saying they won’t make redundancies in the coming months.

Stop this deportation!

A vulnerable 21-year old Black autistic man named Osime Brown was jailed in 2018 and informed he will be deported upon his release to Jamaica.

Osime is currently serving a five year prison sentence in Stoken prison for the theft of a mobile phone.

A witness for the defence stated in court that Osime did not take part in the street robbery that was carried out in front of him by several youths, and said that in fact he had tried to stop them from taking the phone from the victim.

Stand with trans people

The government has leaked plans to drop changes to the Gender Recognition Act to the Sunday Times (14 June).

Changes drawn up under Theresa May’s government would have streamlined the legal process of changing a birth certificate by removing some barriers like medical diagnosis and lengthy and intrusive evidence procedure. Consultation on the updated Gender Recognition Act closed in 2018, but the government has since dragged its feet on implementing it following a spectacular and well-organised backlash from opponents.

How To Beat The Racists

How To Beat The Racists is a Workers' Liberty pamphlet published in 2001 after the far-right BNP more than tripled its electoral share. It aims to convince labour movement activists of the importance of fighting racism, and anti-racists of the importance of the labour movement — and the fight to transform it. Two decades later, this message is as relevant as ever.

Still an emergency

The “Independent SAGE” group of scientists has dissected the government’s first set of figures from its test-trace operation: 8,117 individuals testing positive, 5,407 of them reached and asked for recent contacts, 26,985 asked to isolate.

The best guess is about 23,000 new symptomatic cases in that time period. Only a quarter of symptomatic cases were picked up. And there are no data on how many of the 26,985 actually have self-isolated.

Protests sweep the country: London, Newcastle, West Midlands, Edinburgh

London

By Jay Dawkey

There were maybe 2,000 people at the Central London demonstration in Hyde Park on Friday 12 June. About 60-40 black-white, overwhelmingly young.

Demands and chants were mostly “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace”. Speakers included a pan-Africanist; an author and lecturer (booed when he talked about entrepreneurship and aspiring to be a multi-millionaire); a guy from the West Papua campaign.

Israel protest against annexation

On Saturday 6 June 6,000 people (equivalent of 45,000 in Britain) demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the plan of the new Netanyahu-Gantz coalition government to formally annex large parts of the West Bank to Israel, thus creating a bar against any future Palestinian state being more than a collection of scattered patches of land. Netanyahu has long threatened annexation, and now the government talk of moving on 1 July.

Police initially tried to ban the protest on virus-control grounds, but backed down.

Telling porkies: Labour, Momentum and the police

Momentum rightly reacted to the global George Floyd protests with support. They released a video “Spot The Difference”, outlining racism in the British criminal justice system.

Nothing in their reaction has acknowledged the failures of the Labour left on policing since 2017. Under the left’s leadership Labour adopted a generally “pro-police” line, including vocal campaigns to increase police numbers.

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