Trade Unionists in London can make a difference today

Kieron Merrett says Trade Unionists in London should vote Green on orange today to elect Trade Unionist Assembly Members – and every vote counts
Twitter: @kieronam

Sian Berry, Green Mayoral Candidate and Green Assembly Member Candidate

I met Siân Berry in a café in North London in March, just before we were due to attend an RMT Regional Council meeting. She’d been one of only two Mayoral candidates who’d responded to the RMT’s call for information on policies – silence from the Labour and Tory candidates – and so she’d been invited to give her pitch in person to the delegates present.

My one job, as a full-time Trade Unionist and a Green Party activist, was to advise Siân about how best to speak to these union members. But it was clear from the outset that she wasn’t going to need any of my advice. As a veteran transport campaigner, Siân Berry has been campaigning for years to keep public services in public ownership and fully funded. And as a Green, she naturally supports the rights of workers to organise and fight for their pay and conditions.

So I just sat there while she spoke about her plans to bring the railways under direct public control, to ensure that London’s transport services are fully funded and staffed, and to make them fairer by flattening fares for outer London (and this plan is fully costed). That’s not to mention her other proposals, which include organising London’s renters in a Renters’ Union to take on their landlords, or kicking out big-business lobbyists from City Hall. And she’d been asked specifically to confirm her support for air-pollution controls – a perfect opportunity for her to remind us that her policies for bringing down air pollution had been rated 10/10 by the Clean Air in London campaign.

She spoke about her own personal support for workers’ right to take action to defend their pay. She’d stood with the BMA junior doctors on strike at several hospitals in London. She’d met with GMB cab drivers taking action over Uber and its abuse of legal loopholes. And last year, when Zac Goldsmith said Londoners needed to be “protected” from tube strikes, Siân said that “Tube workers are Londoners too,” and gave them her full support.

Siân told the members about the Greens in City Hall winning the Living Wage Unit, and ensuring that the GLA’s staff are all paid the London Living Wage, including those in privatised services. But importantly, she went on to say that the Greens would support moves to ensure that all these workers were fully unionised, and able to fight for their own pay rises through their union.

That was great to hear. I was reminded of my experience in Wandsworth a couple of years ago, when I led a pay dispute with a group of outsourced local government workers. Then, local Labour councillors had refused to support the workers on strike, because they were claiming a wage above the ‘official’ London Living Wage set for them by City Hall. By contrast, I was now hearing the Green Mayoral candidate supporting workers’ right to negotiate for themselves.

It struck me, in the end, that I hadn’t had to intervene because actually Green policies simply match up with the ones that many Trade Unionists have been asking for for years. And, of course, that’s why I joined the Green Party in the first place. Should we, as Trade Unionists, really have to fight endlessly with our own party just to get basic policies through, such as ending the outsourcing of services to the private sector, or abolishing restrictions on the right to strike? Why don’t we just support the party which has all of these policies anyway, and is proud of them?

VGOOBanner-copyThere’s a tired old argument against voting Green, which is that “they’ll never get in,” no matter how good their policies are. That’s certainly not going to fly today. You’ll have three ballot papers when you vote – and on the orange ballot paper, every vote cast for the Green Party across the whole of London will count towards electing more Green Assembly Members. In the last election, we won two AMs; this time, it could be more. Conversely, a vote for one of the larger parties on the orange paper could be wasted, because they will win more AMs in individual constituencies.

Trade Unionists in London can make a difference today. Whoever you decide to vote for for Mayor, you can vote Green on orange. By doing that, you’ll elect more AMs who will call for publicly owned, fully funded public services, and who will support the right of London’s workers to organise and fight for their own pay and conditions – and who will be proud to do so.

Read about more Green policies for London here – and vote today (5th May) between 7am and 10pm.

Why Trade Unionists in Wales should vote Green

Sam Murray, GPTU International Officer and Wales Green Party member, calls on Trade Unionists in Wales to #ShakeUpTheSenedd on 5th May and vote Green
Twitter: @samuelgemurray

alice-hooker-stroud-amelia-womackOver the course of this election campaign trade unionists have seen threats to the public services and commercial industries increase, and the risk of job losses increase. This election will be about how to protect public service workers in disputes, how to protect healthcare and how to plan for the future of industry across the country. It will also be about wellbeing and culture, with the growth of those working in the creative sector. As the country heads to the polls, an innovative option is on the cards with the Wales Green Party standing a strong chance in securing its first assembly members.

One industrial crisis has shaped all election coverage: Tata Steel. Within the chaos of the Tata Steel crisis there has been a sensible voice in the debate, Alice Hooker-Stroud, leader of Wales Green Party. She has made some rather radical suggestions to solve the crisis calling for co-operative public ownership of the plant, local procurement and the transition of the plant to using sustainable production methods whilst manufacturing steel for building renewable energy infrastructure such as wind and wave turbines.

Wales has been somewhat shielded from the Junior Doctors strikes but there is no doubt the Welsh NHS is in crisis. Workers need to be assured they won’t be seeing the service subject to PFIs or, if Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies becomes first minister, a privatised NHS. Amongst the messy policies based around restructurings and quangos the Welsh Greens want to take a more practical approach: preventative care. Wales Greens want to see care in the community, tackle addiction, and place a stronger emphasis on treating mental health through the combination of health and social care.

Over the past few months a cultural voice has been defined and nuanced in Cardiff and is fast spreading across the country. In February the Cardiff Without Culture? Movement took to the streets to protest Labour-led council cuts to the arts. The movement inspired thousands to join a New Orleans funeral march to save culture. The march was attended by a large contingent of unions including equity, the MU, BECTU and the PCS. The Wales Green Party joined the creatives and arts lovers on the streets; Labour, however, did not participate. The Wales Green Party has also offered solidarity to national museum workers facing job losses and wage cuts. One PCS member commented on the picket lines how they felt abandoned by Labour and welcomed the support visit by Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party of England & Wales and lead-list candidate for South Wales Central.

Wales Green Party believes culture is vital to our humanity and that it shouldn’t be financed purely for economic output but rather for the wellbeing it provides. We support creative industries as crucial to the future of the country and have some pretty radical ideas to finance their development. One idea we have is the so-called Beyoncé-tax on superstar performances, taking a levy on their pay to provide funding for creative and cultural enterprises and education programmes. We also want to support the public heritage sector ensuring fair wages for all workers.

Wales has been a traditional domain for Labour, and this is likely to continue unless we can provide reasonable opposition for working people in the Senedd. The Greens can be that voice. Whilst many Trade Unionist voters will wish to back a new Corbynite Labour, they should take stock of Welsh Labour and be under no illusions about Carwyn Jones, a Blairite. Trade Unionists who vote Labour must also recognise that their regional list vote is wasted on the party who are likely to win most constituency seats across Wales, making it almost impossible for them to pick up list seats – particularly in regions like South Wales Central. They should consider giving the Wales Green Party their list vote to add another set of voices on their side and to keep out UKIP who used Wales as a playground for washed-up corrupt former Tories who see the Welsh Assembly as a gravy train.

When you cast your regional vote consider backing the Welsh Greens to add more pro-Trade Union voices to the Senedd, and who won’t be afraid to stand up to Welsh Labour when they get it wrong.

Full #SolidariTea to the #JuniorDoctors

By GPTU Campaigns Officer, William Quick
Twitter: @willhquick

Junior Doctors and their supporters – led by Kitty Thompson and her ‘Tired Doctors Make Misstakes placard’ picketing outside the BRI 10/3/2016

This April Junior Doctors and the BMA are set to continue to escalate their resistance to Jeremy Hunt and the government’s plans to impose new contracts that have been universally panned as being both Not Safe and Not Fair.

These new contracts remove financial penalties for NHS trusts that place Junior Doctors on ‘fatiguing’ shift patterns (and are thus liable to enable unsafe working conditions – tired doctors make mistakes); and unfairly attack Junior Doctor’s pay be reclassifying an additional 50% of currently unsocial hours as part of the standard working week.

On top of this, the new contract seem geared to accelerate privatisation.  Unsocial hours payments are often cited by private healthcare firms as a ‘barrier’ to their taking over of staff and contracts for some services, removing them will act as a catalyst for the outsourcing of both.

Furthermore, as Dr Lauren Gavaghan recently eloquently explained on LBC (in a video watched by more than 1,000,000 people), expanding work on the weekends isn’t about increasing emergency care (as junior doctors and all NHS staff – myself included – already provide that) but introducing elective non-urgent clinical work into weekends.  This is the work that private companies love to take on as they cherry pick the most profitable services from our NHS to maximise their money making; and thus these contracts will help increase the amount of services liable for private healthcare profiteering.

For all these reasons and more we must support the Junior Doctors when they return to picket lines in coming weeks.

Greens including Tony Dyer – candidate for Mayor, Carla Denyer – Councillor for Clifton East – and me supporting the BRI picket 9/03/2016

The next strike dates are from 8am on the 6th till 8 am on the 8th of April, and then again from 8am till 5pm on 26th and 27th of April.

This second strike will be all out – for the first ever time junior doctors will not provide emergency care (which will instead be covered by consultants).

The government is currently imploding over divisions on the impending EU referendum and the intensification of austerity measures in the recent budget.  The escalation by the BMA will put the government under intense pressure (as well as shining a spotlight on the Tory’s gradual assault on our NHS), and in this context could well succeed in forcing another humiliating climbdown.

Tory’s know this, and it is no doubt for this reason that the Tory press has intensified its vilification of junior doctors and the supposedly ‘militant’ BMA.  According to reports, junior doctors are being nakedly politically, are only interested in the money, are killing patients with their ‘irresponsible’ striking and should all be fired anyway (according to the Sun).

Greens at the BRI picket 09/03/2016

Despite the best efforts of the Torys (and much slander and misinformation particularly from Jeremy Hunt) and their allies in the media, the Junior Doctors remain overwhelmingly popular with the public.  Both the Tories and their press are trying to drive a wedge between striking Junior Doctors and the public (and are going to try to use this latest escalation as a means to discredit them).  Attacks on Junior Doctors and the BMA are only going to intensify as the month draws on.

To defend against these attacks, and support our Junior Doctors (striking can be a hard and dispiriting course of action at the best of time, let alone with the attacks in the press) we must stand shoulder to shoulder with them on the picket lines as they fight to not only protect themselves, but also patient and our entire health service.  The government has suffered a series of setbacks and is looking increasingly weak.  Now is the time to escalate our resistance, to link up our struggles, and to fight back against their agenda of cuts and privatisation.

Me providing hot cups of SolidariTea and SolidariCoffee to the BRI picket 10/03/2016

Once again Bristol Greens will be taking to picket lines across the city to provide SolidariTea (and SolidariCoffee) and practical support.  We call on all trade unionist and progressives in our city to do the same.  If we all come together to support the Junior Doctors they can win.  This would both protect vitally important staff (who are already over worked and under paid) and be a signal victory in the fight against NHS privatisation.  It could also significantly contribute to the toppling of this government.

Green Party members will be showing Solidari-Tea with the junior doctors on their next strike dates, 6th and 7th April. Click here for more info.