Sunday, October 13, 2019

Climate Crisis can't be ignored

By New Worker correspondent

Climate change activists are disrupting traffic and public transport throughout central London this week to demand action to halt ecological disaster. They’ve been denounced by Tory ministers and business leaders for causing chaos and disrupting business, but Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas the Green MP, and Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich, have all publicly supported the protests.
Several thousand protesters have set up camps and road blocks in Westminster whilst others glued and chained themselves to government buildings and lorries as part of a 14-day environmental protest in 60 cities throughout the world. Some 600 demonstrators have been arrested and the police have called on reinforcements from the provinces to deal with the protests that are planned at City Airport and other high-profile centres in the heart of the capital.
The London protests were called by Extinction Rebellion (XR), a green campaign that was set up last year by a number of academics and veteran ecology campaigners to use Gandhi-style civil disobedience to take the movement to the streets and fire a common sense of urgency to tackle climate breakdown.
In April they brought London to a standstill with a wave of protests that caused traffic jams and grid-lock across the capital. Now they hope to do the same as part of an “International Rebellion” to shut down cities and disrupt business through peaceful protests calling for urgent action to tackle the ecological emergency facing the planet.
At the protest camps young eco-warriors were heartened by the news that seasoned campaign Daniel ‘Swampy’ Hooper has, once again, joined the fray. ‘Swampy’ spent a week living in a tunnel in a bid to halt the re-routing of the A30 in Devon in 1996. Hooper now lives in West Wales and he’s just been fined for attaching himself to a concrete block during an XR blockade of the big Valero oil refinery in Pembrokeshire last month.
Speaking at the launch of yet another book about Margaret Thatcher on Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson labelled Extinction Rebellion protesters as “unco-operative crusties” who live in “heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs”, and said his security team didn't want him to attend the event because they feared he might be hit by eggs from the climate change protesters. But his father, Stanley Johnson, who openly supports the ecological campaign and says he’s “very impressed” by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, has agreed to join an XR panel for a climate change debate in Trafalgar Square this week.
Jeremy Corbyn says the next Labour government will create thousands of jobs in windfarms as part of a new green agenda for Britain. The Labour leader unveiled plans to create around 70,000 jobs in offshore windfarms part-owned by the public this week. Thirty-seven new offshore windfarms would be built under a 10-year plan for clean energy to reduce emissions to net zero and keep global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. Wind energy would increase fivefold and benefit from an £83bn investment.
The project would be a joint venture between publicly owned Regional Energy Agencies (REAs) and existing offshore wind developers.
The REAs would hold a controlling 51 per cent stake in all new windfarms, with 20 per cent of their profits being invested back into coastal communities and 80 per cent reinvested into decarbonising the economy and tackling climate change.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “The full scale of the environment and climate emergency cannot be ignored. As scientists and activists have made clear, we need immediate and radical action to have any hope of keeping temperature rises to a manageable level.
“We know the big polluters and banks won’t take the necessary action. So the next Labour government will kick-start a Green Industrial Revolution, protecting our planet and creating hundreds of thousands of high-wage, high-skill unionised jobs across the country and delivering investment for communities that have been held back for decades.
“Labour’s 10 year plan will provide the massive public investment needed to radically reduce our emissions and secure a future for our planet.”

Curse of Low Pay

By New Worker correspondent

In their line of duty archaeologists sometimes have to brave many dangers, such as working in damp ditches whilst digging out half a leather boot or braving the curse of the mummy. Arch├Žologists employed by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) face more a mundane problem however – low pay.
Prospect members working at MOLA have just voted 78 per cent in favour of strike action (with 94 per cent for action short of a strike) over pay and the failure of their management (the wealthiest local authority in Britain, if not the world) to implement a pay structure. Apart from work for the museum, MOLA’s 300 staff undertake archaeological work on behalf of clients in London and further afield, including Crossrail and HS2.
In June the bosses imposed a 2.5 per cent pay award even though it had been rejected by union members who have long been suffering financial hardship due to low pay in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The dispute also concerns a pay structure that MOLA executive management promised would be in place by April 2019. This undertaking was made to settle an industrial dispute last year but they have now reneged on their commitment. Had the pay structure been in place as promised then staff would have received an incremental rise in addition to a cost-of-living award.
Andy Bye, Prospect’s negotiator, said: “MOLA is in crisis with experienced staff leaving and market share in London going to its main competitor which pays arch├Žologists £2,000 more per year.
“Executive managers have ignored the views of staff and the impact their pay policy and management style is having on MOLA as a whole. With this vote for industrial action, MOLA staff have said enough is enough. If management don’t start listening and paying a fair wage then it’s hard to see how MOLA can continue to operate competitively.”

Ticket Troubles

By New Worker correspondent

The RMT transport union launched a fresh campaign this week to halt London Overground ticket office closures. It is opposing plans to cut hours at 45 stations to the bare minimum and to close the ticket offices altogether at Brondesbury, White Hart Lane and West Hampstead.
London Overground last year planned to close 51 ticket offices on the network. The RMT launched a campaign however, and thousands of London Overground passengers opposed the closures, forcing the Mayor of London to intervene and promise to keep the ticket offices open.
As the New Worker hits the doormats on Friday the union will be having a day of action, with a leafleting and postcard campaign taking place at stations around the capital.
Under the revised new proposals, many stations would only be open in the mornings between 07:30–10:00am, Monday to Friday.
This would equate to a cut in hours of over 65 per cent across the Overground. Many stations are facing cuts in hours of over 80 per cent.
As a result many ticket offices would be closed for large parts of the day, resulting in stations becoming less safe, secure and accessible, and passengers will not be able to access all ticket types and services at a machine. Many people, including some elderly and disabled passengers, would struggle to purchase tickets and get advice.
London Overground is presently owned by the German State rail company, which made a profit of £4.6 million last year so it can well afford to provide a decent public service.
RMT’s General Secretary Mick Cash warned: “These plans to cut ticket office opening hours are about cutting costs and maximising profits and fly in the face of the Mayor’s promise last year to keep the ticket offices open.
“RMT will be fighting to keep ticket offices fully open and oppose the proposed cuts and we expect the same widespread support from the travelling public that we had when fought to save ticket offices last year.”