Friday, September 29, 2017

Cabbies welcome Uber ban

BLACK cab drivers in London who belong to the unions Unite and GMB last week praised the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) for putting the safety of Londoners ahead of big corporate interests by deciding not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in London.
Commenting chair of London’s Unite black cab section Jim Kelly said: “The mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have done the right thing in putting the safety of passengers and Londoners ahead of the big corporate interests of Uber.
“Dogged by controversy, Uber’s approach has been to exploit workers and bend the rules while trying to brush passenger safety concerns under the carpet.
“No one is above the law and today’s decision will be welcomed by London’s trusted professional black cab drivers. It signals that the mayor of London and Transport for London are not prepared to allow London to become the ‘wild west’ of the cab trade and put passengers at risk.
“In the coming weeks Uber will no doubt throw all its legal and corporate lobbying might to overturn this decision. We would urge the mayor of London and Transport for London to stand firm and continue to stand up for the safety of Londoners and the capital’s trusted cabbies.”
GMB said that the TfL decision was a major victory for drivers’ rights and for passenger safety. Last year the union won an employment tribunal case, which proved Uber’s drivers are employed by the firm, not self-employed as Uber had claimed. That means they should be entitled to holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and safety protections, as well as other basic employment rights.
The £51 billion San Francisco transport giant has been controversial around the world for circumventing workers’ rights and pay minimums in many countries where it operates.
Uber’s initial five-year licence allowed them to operate a business of up to 40,000 cars in London. But unlike other firms, they refused to give drivers either basic employment rights or the full freedoms that come with genuine self-employment.
GMB, working with global corporate campaigners and the TUC, handed in a 100,000-strong petition last week to City Hall. It called for TfL to force Uber to respect workers’ rights and passenger safety or get out of London.
GMB found that a member working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August 2015 after costs and fees were taken into account.
That’s significantly below the national minimum wage. Uber also deducted sums from drivers’ pay, including when customers make complaints, and often without informing the drivers in advance.
When Uber’s licence came up for renewal earlier this year TfL extended it by only four months with a warning to the company to improve its practices. Last week TfL concluded that Uber had failed to use the four months to correct its failings.
There were many areas of serious concern, including its handling of allegations of sexual assault by its drivers against passengers.
Freedom of Information data obtained by The Sun last year showed that the Metropolitan Police investigated 32 drivers for rape or sexual assault of a passenger between May 2015 and May 2016.
In August, Metropolitan Police Inspector Neil Billany wrote to TfL about his concern that the company was failing to investigate properly allegations against its drivers.
He revealed that the company had continued to employ a driver after he was accused of sexual assault. According to Inspector Billany, the same driver went on to assault another female passenger before he was removed.
The letter said: “By not reporting to police promptly, Uber are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public.”
This month, TfL informed Uber that background checks on thousands of its drivers were invalid. The drivers were given 28 days to reapply for the procedure or risk losing their licence.
Uber has responded as Unite predicted — by launching an appeal against the decision and a propaganda war and petition against the decision, backed by the Evening Standard, which is currently edited by former Chancellor George Osborne. He is paid £650,000 a year by fund manager BlackRock, which has a stake in taxi app firm worth about £500 million.
The National Union of Journalists’ ethics council said that the Evening Standard should note Osborne’s role at BlackRock alongside newspaper and online articles it publishes about Uber.

Stuart Monro – film-maker and communist

Musical tribute from old comrades in the chapel
By New Worker correspondent
NCP leader Andy Brooks and other comrades, including Theo Russell and Dermot Hudson, paid their last respects to Stuart Monro, a leading member of the RCPB(ML), at his funeral in East London last week. The packed hour-long ceremony was attended by more than 200 people, many of whom had to stand. As well as friends and family, they included life-long comrades from the RCPB(ML) and people who had worked with Stuart on the many projects and campaigns in which he had been involved in over the years.
            Throughout his life Stuart had been a local historian, film-maker, union activist and militant communist, and this was reflected in the tributes from the rostrum and the labour movement banners draped inside the South Chapel of the City of London cemetery in Manor Park on Friday.
 Stuart Monro studied drama in Bristol and film at the London School of Film. During the height of the Cultural Revolution in China, Stuart joined the forerunners of the RCPB(ML) and plunged straight into the struggle on the street.
An active communist, Stuart and his wife, Charlotte, were jailed on trumped-up charges in the early 1970s. Stuart later helped Charlotte regain her job at Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone, after a two-year fight against victimisation.
Stuart Monro was a supporter of Democratic Korea, which he visited as part of a RCPB(ML) delegation in 2013. He later made a short film of the visit that is freely available on YouTube. Other recent videos focused on the fight to save Lewisham hospital and safeguard the future of the health service. And only last year, a one-day festival of his films was staged at Morley College in London.
After the ceremony, the party adjourned to Wanstead Park, where they gathered in the evening sunlight in front of the tea hut, one of Stuart’s favourite places, and then on to his home to recall fond memories of a man who dedicated his whole life to the progress of humanity and a new world.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Anger at plans to close Overground ticket offices

RAIL UNION RMT last week responded to London Overground ticket office and staffing proposals that included plans to cut ticket offices at Overground stations.
The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: "RMT is deeply concerned about the proposals which in our view could see the elimination of ticket offices across London Overground.
“Our experience in the past shows that, despite promises to the contrary, the closure of ticket offices leads to the wholesale destaffing of stations with serious consequences for safety and security.
"These plans have a striking similarity to the Fit for The Future model rolled out on London Underground stations which meant wholesale axing of ticket offices and a net loss in safety critical jobs and which sparked a long running union industrial and political campaign that eventually reversed a ‎sizeable chunk of those cuts.
"RMT is also aware that these proposals are being mapped out against the background of massive central Government cuts to the TfL [Transport for London] budget and those cuts could shape the eventual package.
“The Mayor ‎must give us cast iron assurances that will not happen and we are calling for urgent, top level discussions around the proposals released by TfL today."
Eddie Dempsey, an RMT activist, who is employed by TfL, commented: “Outrageous that on the morning London's transport network suffered another terrorist attack, Arriva Rail London, the privateers who operate London Overground with Transport for London, have announced massive cuts to station staff that could see every ticket office on the network at risk of closure.
“Once again London Underground workers were the first on the scene keeping Londoners safe as they were on 7/7 and once again they're being ignored about the safety implications of transport staff cuts.
“These plans mirror what London Underground did with its Fit for the Future programme (colloquially known as fit for f**k all among LU workers) which lead to a massive shortage of staff and a number of serious safety incidents London Underground couldn't deal with.
“This was despite RMT raising again and again underground workers concerns that these plans would put passengers and staff at risk. It took a combination of safety shortfalls and major strike action by RMT members shutting London down before London regained some hundreds of jobs that had been cut, but not all, or enough.
“Two billion odd cuts to the TfL budget is driving this irresponsible attitude to public safety. The mayor needs to get off the pot and fight for London's transport network and hold off the cuts before this scorched earth policy of staff cuts leads to a major disaster and loss of lives.”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Democratic Korea now a super-power!

DPRK diplomat Kim Song Gi speaking
By New Worker correspondent
 London’s Chadswell Centre in central London once again became the venue for Korean solidarity activists last weekend, for a report-back meeting of a visit to Democratic Korea by a Korean Friendship Association (KFA) delegation and to hear DPRK diplomats talk about the defiant stand of their people’s government in the face of the increasing violent threats of US imperialism and its lackeys.
Dermot Hudson, Alex Meads and José Blasquez went to Democratic Korea to take part in the 5th International Festival at Mt Paektu, the traditional symbol of Korean independence last month. All three spoke about their impressions of the land of Juche, which has been forced to develop its own nuclear deterrent to defend the DPRK against the American imperialists who occupy the southern part of the Korean peninsula.
Other speakers included Theo Russell from the Central Committee of the New Communist Party and KFA activist James Taylor. Kim Song Gi, from the DPRK’s London embassy, gave a talk entitled The DPRK is a super-power, that outlined Democratic Korea’s efforts in developing its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.
Dermot Hudson unveiled his latest book In Defence of Juche Korea, which was part of an exhibition of publications from the KFA and the DPRK that included works by Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and those of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Once again this was a golden opportunity to discuss the Korean crisis with DPRK diplomats and comrades who have just returned from the beleaguered socialist republic, both during the meeting and over light refreshments supplied by the DPRK embassy.

Growing ties with Vietnam

Nguyen Van Thao greets the guests
By New Worker correspondent
NCP leader Andy Brooks joined politicians, diplomats, journalists and members of the Vietnamese community in London in celebrating Vietnam’s National Day at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington on Tuesday.
The National Day commemorates the Vietnamese declaration of independence from France on 2nd September 1945. On that day Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi, and the beginning of the struggle for freedom that finally ended with the defeat of US imperialism in 1975 and the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Naturally this year’s celebration focused on the growing British–Vietnamese ties that have developed in recent years. Ambassador Nguyen Van Thao spoke highly of the efforts that have greatly expanded trade and cultural links with Britain and Kate White from the Foreign Office reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to signing a bilateral trade agreement with Vietnam after the UK leaves the European Union.
Sadly Nguyen Van Thao will soon be leaving as his tour of duty in London is over – but he can depart pleased at the many positive developments in British–Vietnamese relations during his watch and confident that this will continue in the future.
Two-way trade reached $5.6 billion in 2016, up 30 per cent compared with 2014, whilst education and tourism remain important cooperation aspects between the two countries. At present, there are about 12,000 Vietnamese students in Britain, with the figure rising annually. The number of British tourists to Vietnam is also rising, especially after Vietnam offered visa exemptions for UK visitors and the launch of daily flights connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with London. Vietnam has welcomed more than 250,000 British tourists since the beginning of this year.