Bootle – Yet more Civil Service jobs to be withdrawn!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/closure-bootles-acas-office-see-12122910

acas

On the back of HMRC giving notice to quit to Bootle and Netherton ACAS has seemingly now joined the abandon Bootle movement of Civil Service jobs out of a Town that so obviously needs them. My last posting about the HMRC job losses is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/07/bootle-back-to-those-huge-civil-service-job-losses-in-the-borough-of-sefton/

The HMRC jobs some 2,500+ are going into Liverpool whilst the much smaller number of ACAS jobs are moving to economically overheated Manchester!

What on earth was the point of putting Civil Service jobs into Bootle in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s simply to withdraw them all now? Does no one in Government give a fig for the more deprived and economically struggling communities in the north of England?

Is this all part of the Norther Poorhouse policy to further impoverish the towns and smaller communities of the north by pushing all the jobs and investment into the major northern cities? What good can come from such a policy?

One of my major concerns about about the development of City Regions is that exactly this sort of thing will continue to happen. What’s the point of Liverpool being successful, for example, if its surrounding Boroughs are asset stripped to achieve that. I despair I really do.

Shaw – Playhouse 2 – Snake Davis – Another grand night out

I have posted previously about Playhouse 2, a small but perfectly formed theatre in Shaw between Oldham and Rochdale. It’s just off the M62 and takes about and hour to get there from our Lydiate home.

We have taken to going there quite often to see plays and last night Keith Page and I went to see a performance of the Snake Davis Band during their ‘Classic Sax Solos’ tour. He has a new album out of that very name and I was pleased to pick up an autographed copy of it.

Here’s a You Tube video of Snake:-
www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8mb-KJj_Qo

Snake was the saxophonist of M People and he is probably one of the greatest exponents of the saxophone in the UK. He plays a wide variety of music but mainly it is soul, pop and jazz related. Last night’s performance was tremendous. Here are a few shots of it:-

Snake Davis at playhouse 2

The Snake Davis Band 2

Snake Davis and bass player Sinon Goulding

Click on the photos to enlarge them

And not only did we have a great night out (they serve real ale at the bar!) but I met my old friend Pete Grubb who I used to work with in my trade union officer days for PCS. Pete lives close to Playhouse 2 and he is in effect their official photographer as the walls of the bar area are covered in shots he has taken of live performances at this gem of a theatre.

The first photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

www.playhouse2.org
t – @Playhouse2Shaw
f – P2Shaw

National Living Wage and the ways around it!

Of course Cameron’s National Living Wage (presently £7.20 per hour) was a bit of a con but at least it was said to be aimed at improving the lot of the most exploited employees.

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The real Living Wage at £8.25 per hour (promoted by The Living Wage Foundation) is obviously where the Government’s new National Living Wage should have been set.

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But experience is starting to show that employers are getting around the National Living Wage by cutting hours, expecting greater productivity with less resources etc. etc. And this despite the fact that new legislation says there should be no detriment to those earning the NLW.

Sadly we seem to have at least one local example in Sefton Borough and I am sure there will be others that have not come to my attention.

The case I am aware of involves cleaners at a local Civil Service office who, according to their trade union (PCS), are suffering cuts to their working hours as well as being on low pay. Not only that they don’t get sick pay.

The cleaners and their union are firm in their belief that a breach of contract has taken place and an Employment Tribunal could well be the end result.

It’s not big and its not cleaver to exploit the low paid.

What’s more the consequences of low pay are that taxpayers have to top up the poor wages with tax credits thereby in effect subsidising employers who are not paying their staff enough.

Bootle – back to those huge Civil Service job losses in the Borough of Sefton

I posted some time ago about what I dubbed ‘Exit Bootle’ as HMRC announced that a huge number of Civil Service jobs were to be taken out of Bootle/Netheron and for some of them then to be relocated within Liverpool. My original posting is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/11/25/hmrcs-exit-bootle/

The devastating effect of these job losses on the fragile Bootle economy has indeed been completely ignored and therefore not taken into account by the those planning the move, this has been admitted to. Government seems to have adopted the stance of ‘this has nothing to do with us, it’s a matter for HMRC to decide upon’ or words to that effect!

But it’s not just Bootle where HMRC is going to effect huge job losses on a local economy, it is happening across the UK and MP’s representing those communities, many of them deprived by many social and economic indicators, are naturally up in arms. So much so that a debate on the floor of the House of Commons was held on 28th April and Peter Dowd the MP for Bootle contributed to it. Here’s a link to the Hansard report on the debate:-

hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-04-28/debates/16042848000002/HMRCBuildingOurFuturePlan

My thanks to Peter for his contribution in my capacity as a serving Civil Servant, a trade unionist and as a former Leader of Sefton Council. Taking jobs out of Bootle in their thousands will harm the economy and, as I have said before, it reverses a well trodden path that has been successful in providing jobs in Sefton. Let’s not forget that HMRC also took jobs away from Southport when they closed Southport Tax Office a few years ago.

Even at this late stage Government needs to stop washing its hands of the matter. Of course Government is responsible for a Civil Service Department reorganising itself in a way that will be economically destructive to many deprived communities across the UK. There’s no one else to blame.

The Trade Union Movement is dying & needs urgent reform

The trade union movement is, I fear, slowly slipping away and becoming irrelevant to modern day life and I say that as a committed trade unionist. It was taken into a nursing home a few years ago but is now slowly day by day slipping away.

The modern world is all about individual freedoms far more than it is about collectivism. It probably started in the 1980’s and Thatcher probably started it. But the mistake trade unions make is to assume that individual freedoms are always trumped by collectivism – they aren’t and until unions can really grasp this they will continue to be on the slide.

As a Liberal who understands why collective action can be vital for the common good but who also sees why individual freedoms are just if not more vital this is not a concern but a change that has to be addressed by a trade union movement that does not cope with change at all well. Indeed, it is that inability to modernise, until it is too late, that has bedeviled unions for years.

Just cast your mind back to the 1970’s and 80’s, trade unions were headline news day in day out, maybe not always for the right reasons, but they were a force to be reckoned with. Now trade unions are in the news far less often because they are becoming less relevant to the lives of ordinary people.

Trade unions are also in financial difficulty too. Falling membership, feeling that they can’t charge the level of membership fees they would like to/need to and having to merge with other unions are all big issues driven by money worries. My own union, PCS, has even cancelled democracy recently by deferring internal elections to save money.

But why post this piece now? Well it came to mind because of a number of unrelated conversations and newspaper/internet articles that I had read in recent months. They seemed to form a common thread for me and that thread was that UK unions seem to struggle these days to back individual members who are in difficulty. One of those conversations was with my old chum Roy Connell, a committed trade unionist all his working life.

I must have heard and read about half a dozen cases where members with difficulties were not backed by their union and either had to fight their case on their own or were not able fight at all. A common issue seems to be ‘the union will not fund the legal battle’ and this is often down to a risk assessment by union bean counters of how much money a case may cost. Again, the tightness of money means that unions are far more picky these days about which legal cases they will back.

But now it is getting out that unions are effectively backing out of backing their members when they are in trouble can only make folk less inclined to join a union. A vicious circle indeed.

Fighting high profile social justice campaigns is of course bread and butter to trade unions. However, if they are channeling scare resources into this collective/political work whilst leaving their members high and dry when they need legal backing then the wrong balance is surely being struck.

Many of the freedoms that we all take for granted these days (even by those who vote Tory/UKIP) were gained for us by the trade union movement but as society has changed our unions have been slow to react and at times unwilling to react.

It’s no use union executive committees and general secretaries being up for the next internal fight for the Labour Party’s soul whilst their members see them (and the Labour Party) as being out of touch with their world, because I fear that is what’s happening. Collectivism is not now king and maybe it is only on a par with if not behind the individual issues that folks join trade unions for. They want their union to back them when they are in difficulty above all else. Fighting the political battles of the day usually passes them by whether union leaders like it or not.

So the challenge for trade unionists is to reinvent a trade union movement that is very much stuck in a rut and has found the rut a comfortable place to be except for the lack of money flowing into it of course!

International Workers Memorial Day

Tomorrow (Tuesday 28 April) is International Workers Memorial Day.

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day commemorates those workers.

Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.

The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight for the living”.

PCS support calls for strong regulation, in the UK, Europe and internationally. PCS are committed to campaign for:

· full protection of statutory time for union health and safety reps.

· better worker protections against work-related stress, back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders, long hours, excessive workloads, presenteeism, and poorly designed jobs and workplaces

· zero tolerance on bullying, harassment and victimisation

· meaningful joint preventive, inspection and enforcement action

· a fully resourced and independent Health and Safety Executive.

PCS campaigns with other unions, the TUC and other campaigning organisations (Hazards, and Families Against Corporate Killers) to defend our members, jobs and services.

My trade union sent me this message today and a well thought out message it is too. Many moan about Health & Safety regulations but they are there to keep us safe in the workplace and elsewhere. They may sometimes look like too much red tape but the reality is that many lives have been saved and accidents reduced by sensible H&S planning. Forget the nonsense of stopping kids playing with conkers and remember that lives can be saved by H&S compliance – maybe you or I have been saved from an accident at some time but we don’t know it because what we did had been made safe or safer.

As a former Health and Safety Representative and Trade Union Officer I know the value of a safe workplace.