Tag Archives: Elections 5th May 2016

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.