Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Football crazy…

 by New Worker correspondent

Readers turning to the New Worker hoping to seek relief from football are going to be disappointed. This week we have a look at the 2,158 strong Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) which as its name implies is the trade union for football players in England and Wales. There is another similar, but separate PFA for Scotland.
     Professional football was grudgingly officially approved of by the Football Association League in 1886, who thought it was for public school boys only. However many churches and chapels had already set up amateur clubs to improve attendance at sermons. Employers found that forming a works team and buying them a football earned them a reputation as a good employer.
     The PFA was founded in 1907 making it the oldest union for sportsmen (and now with 84 women members). Starting life as the Association Football Players’ and Trainers’ Union, it was the successor to the short lived Association Footballers’ Union which lasted for only three years between 1898 and 1901.
     Both unions were established hoping to overturn the maximum wage, at that time £4 a week, a sum which many working class people would envy in those days.
     In the 1909-10 season the union threatened strike action, which resulted in the Football Association withdrawing recognition and banned members from the game. This resulted in membership falling as clubs recruited amateurs. Only at Manchester United did union members stand firm, but an Everton player was vocal in his support resulting in the union regaining recognition in exchange for allowing bonus payments to be made to players to supplement the maximum wage which then remained in place for decades.
     Just before the First World War a badly handled court case over the restrictive transfer scheme almost destroyed the union. For decades the proceeds of transfer payments went exclusively to clubs, which were in fact businesses.
     Membership fell to 300 in 1915 but doubled by 1920. Post-war unemployment saw attendance fall resulting in clubs in 1922 imposing a £1 cut to the maximum wage, (then £9 a week), a move defeated by the union in the courts.
     1955 saw the union affiliate to the Trades Union Congress, however, its registering under the Tory’s 1971 Industrial Relations resulting in it departing in 1973, but it re-joined in 1995 where it remains.
     While a player, the future TV commentator Jimmy Hill became secretary in 1956 and proved to be a new broom. In 1957 he launched a campaign to abolish the maximum wage (then £20), succeeding in 1961. The first £100 a week player resulted, paving the way for £100,000 a week players of today. We might deplore the commercialisation of sport, but unions exist for the benefit of their members.
     In 1963 the PFA secured a legal victory when the “retain and transfer system” was deemed an “unreasonable restraint of trade”.
     Football has always been a boys’ game. As recently as 1998 it hit the headlines when a players’ agent was turned away from the PFA’s annual dinner for the sin of being a woman, a blunder which cost the PFA dearly in terms of legal fees and reputation.
     In the course of its 114 year history it has only had seven leaders. It appointed a new Chief Executive, as its General Secretary is now called, former Swiss footballer and sports lawyer, Maheta Molango, earlier this year.
     He replace the former incumbent, Gordon Taylor OBE, whose reign began in 1981 and ended under a cloud earlier this year. Eyebrows had been raised about the fact that an arm of the PFA, its “charity” wing, had an income of £27 million, but spent only £2 million on “charitable activities”, a sum equal to the boss’s pay cheque. This has resulted in an ongoing enquiry by the Charity Commission. He was also criticised for being slow on the uptake on a number of issues such as supporting investigations into the large number of football players affected with dementia allegedly caused by heading the older heavier footballs.
     Taylor’s leadership was challenged in 2018 when 200 players told him to go. This he agreed to do the next year after overseeing an independent review of the organisation. This he finally did at the age of 75. He was one of the few trade union leaders who can be truly said to live on the same salary as the workers he represented. But that is only because some of his members earn over £100,000 a week. His salary was not modest: £2,290,000 a year at one stage, which almost certainly made him the highest paid trade union official in the world. Molango will have to scrape by on a measly £500,000 to begin with.
     Footballer players often have a bad image when they are photographed tumbling out of nightclubs at 4 am and driving off in £250,000 car, but that is a fairly recent development and needless to say not all are on £100,000 a week. Most are on a mere fraction of that. Only last week the union had to battle on behalf of its members at Swindon Town FC to simply secure 60 per cent of the wages due to them. This is a common enough experience in the lower leagues.
     Comparatively minor injuries can mean the end of a career, which even at the best of times is a short one. Therefore the union has a responsibility for its members beyond their playing life. Apart from supporting a “Football Scholarship Programme” and the “Football in the Community Programme” for would-be players, it also funds several education programmes for present and former players. Since 1991 it has supported players on a Salford University physiotherapy course. It also helps them get degrees in “Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting” from Staffordshire University. Additionally it has also helped the cause of women’s football so that we can look forward to more women being photographed tumbling out of nightclubs at 4 am and driving off in new £250,000 cars etc.,
     For clapped out players it also funds a residential rehabilitation programme at Lilleshall Sports Injury Rehabilitation in Shropshire.
     The new boss, Maheta Molango has delivered a manifesto, saying: “One principle will guide my leadership of our union, and it is this: the PFA belongs to the players. It should always be run on behalf of its members, for its members”. Some would argue this promises a revolutionary change from Taylor’s day, but all trade union bureaucrats say that.

A call to the world from Beijing

by New Worker correspondent

British communists attended a special screening of the Communist Party of China and World Political Parties Summit online event at the Chinese Embassy in London on 6th July, with Theo Russell representing the NCP as a Central Committee member.
     This major global event was joined by leaders of over 500 political parties and movements, over 10,000 representatives from more than 160 countries, and with parallel sessions in the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Yan'an, Shenzhen, Ningde and Anji.
     The highlight of the summit was the keynote address, delivered live from Beijing, by Xi Jinping. General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) entitled Strengthening Cooperation Among Political Parties to Jointly Pursue the People's Wellbeing. President Xi stayed with the meeting throughout, which by the time it finished was midnight in Beijing.
     President Xi's address was a tour de force laying out a vision for the whole world, “seizing and shaping a shared future for mankind” in which the interests of all countries would be aligned with those of all others.
     Xi addressed the need to build consensus by upholding and promoting the common values of humanity for peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, to promote development by bringing greater benefits to all peoples in a fairer manner, to enhance cooperation by working together to address global risks and challenges, and to improve governance by enhancing the capacity to ensure the people's wellbeing.
     He declared: "it is the unswerving goal of the CPC to run our own house well, ensure a happy life for the 1.4 billion plus Chinese people, and advance the lofty cause of promoting peace and development of all mankind".
     Comrade Xi also said that the CPC "will unite and lead the Chinese people in taking comprehensive steps to deepen reform and opening up, to make new contributions to the shared development and prosperity of all countries of the world", and work towards "steering economic globalisation towards greater openness, inclusiveness, balance and win-win results".
     Other key contributors to the summit were Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, Deputy Chair of Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Kazakhstan leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, former Bolivian President Juan Evo Morales Ayma, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Pakistani premier Imran Khan, Mozambiquan President Filipe Nyusi, President of Congo Brazzaville Denis Sassou-N'guesso, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, and Sri Lankan premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.
     In his intervention, the Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel congratulated the Chinese people, "and in particular to you and the more than 95 million militants," on the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, and said that "today the revolutionary, progressive and left forces have a great nation that has made important theoretical and practical contributions to Marxism-Leninism, raising the flag of socialism, tempered to its historical-concrete conditions".
     Díaz-Canel pointed out that "the People's Republic of China does not impose a model; does not adopt unilateral coercive measures; and does not apply extraterritorial laws".
     He also noted that "No other process of building socialism has successfully exceeded seven decades, and no other Communist Party has led a country for so long", and predicted that "in the year 2049 the world will contemplate, even more admired, the first modern socialist country that reaches, under the leadership of its political vanguard, the centenary of its foundation".
     A Joint Statement of Proposals of the CPC and World Political Parties Summit was published following the event, expressing the shared aspiration of all the political parties taking part for maintaining world peace and development, and improving people's lives.


Sunday, July 04, 2021

Farewell to Alan

Remembering a great comrades
by New Worker correspondent

Alan Rogers’ funeral took place at Ipswich Crematorium on Wednesday 23rd June. A beautiful floral display of bright red roses adorned his coffin, symbolising his life-long dedication to the cause of socialism. The Humanist ceremony included tributes from his family and friends. His long-standing comrade and friend Pat Abraham sent her own moving tribute that was read during the ceremony. Alan's granddaughter read one of his favourite poems: Invocation by PB Shelley.
    Following the ceremony Alan's friends, family and comrades gathered at his daughter Helen's home to celebrate the life of a much-respected comrade. Those present shared their reminisces of a man they all respected.
    John Maryon represented the New Communist Party. He spoke about the immense contribution that Alan had made to the class struggle and highlighted his ability to make a quick, razor-sharp analysis of events whilst always being positive and optimistic. John referred to Alan's wife Ann, who passed away in 2019, who had been a lovely comrade and a former editor of the {New Worker}. The two had formed a powerful team that worked together to campaign for peace, oppose racism and fight for workers’ rights.
    Alan never wavered in his commitment to socialism, and he lived a full life with purpose. He fought for the underdog, the under paid, the disadvantaged and all those exploited under capitalism. Alan was a good man, a loyal comrade and a true friend. We will all miss him.

Celebrating China’s victories in London!

Andy Brooks speaking from the NCP Centre

 By New Worker correspondent

  NCP leader Andy Brooks joined other comrades and friends at an online seminar organised by the Chinese embassy in London last week. Four other members of the New Communist Party Central Committee, along with other British communists, academics, politicians and pillars of the British business community in China, took part in the Symposium on the Centenary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on 22nd June.
    The Chinese ambassador, Zheng Zeguang, delivered a keynote speech entitled Celebrate A Glorious Century and Create A More Splendid Future.
    “After the founding of New China, the CPC led the Chinese people to complete the socialist revolution and establish a basic socialist system. This was the most extensive and profound social transformation in China's history. The Chinese people worked hard and independently and put in place a relatively well-rounded industrial and economic system. In this process, we gathered significant experience on how to build socialism. We laid the political, institutional and material foundation needed to build a better life for the people and realise national rejuvenation,” the Chinese ambassador said.
    “We are filled with pride as we look at how far the CPC has come, and we are fully confident as we look to the future. Today, the CPC is standing at a new historical starting point. China is embarking on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in a comprehensive way. The achievement of China's two centenary goals and the realisation of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will surely create broader space for the co-operation between China and the world, including the UK.”
    This was followed by contributions from Andy Brooks, Rob Griffiths of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and Joti Brar of the CPGB (ML). John Ross, Senior Fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, and Professor Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute of King's College London, also spoke highly about the achievements of the Chinese communist party over the last 100 years.
    “A hundred years have passed since the foundation of the Communist Party of China on 23rd July 1921. China has risen from being a weak semi-feudal, semi-colonial country to become a force for peace in the global arena with the second largest economy in the world,” the NCP leader said. “In the past China’s wealth was the preserve of a ruthless feudal ruling class. These days China’s wealth is being used to finally eradicate the last vestiges of poverty, raise the standard of living of everyone in the people’s republic and help the development of the Third World through genuine fair trade and economic assistance.
    “This is the glorious achievement of the Chinese Communist Party which led the resistance that defeated the Japanese imperialists and the reactionary Chinese warlords and politicians in the pay of American imperialism to establish the people’s government on 1st October 1949.”
    Over 30 participants, including Lord Sassoon, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (Conservative), Liam Byrne MP (Labour) and Lisa Cameron MP (SNP), along with other political party representatives, experts and scholars, took part in the seminar.
    They congratulated the Chinese communists on the centenary of the founding of the CPC and applauded the historic achievements made by the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese communist party. They all shared the view that political parties, regardless of their national background, should engage in dialogue and exchanges on the basis of mutual respect, to enhance mutual learning, improve party governance in line with their national realities, and promote the development of their respective countries and international co-operation. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Working Day

by New Worker correspondent

Last week the TUC released a report on The Future of Flexible Work, something which it thinks is a good thing. Flexible working hours (FWH) means that people do not need to clock in at 9:00 and of at 17:00 with an hour for lunch. It can allow people to come in at 8:00 or 10:00 and leave at 16:00 or 18:00. Thy can have a half hour for lunch or two hours and work late. Doing many long working days can be rewarded with extra holiday time.
     The TUC say “Genuine flexible working can be a win-win arrangement for both workers and employers. It can allow people to balance their work and home lives, is important in promoting equality at work and can lead to improved recruitment and retention of workers for employers”.
     That is true to some extent. For those with a long commute an early start, it can make sense to avoid overcrowded trains, or people can leave for work after their little darlings are sent off to school. During much of his working life this correspondent was on “flexitime”. This is suitable for large organisations which have work to do outside the nine to five day. But the major drawback to FWH is that in many cases it has seen the end of overtime and unsocial shift payments.
     This is generally popular with workers, with the TUC’s report showing that 82 per of those it surveyed want FWH and variations such as remote working, flexi-time, part-time work, job sharing, annualised hours, term time only working , compressed hours and mutually-agreed predictable hours. A study by the Government Equalities Office found that jobs that advertised flexibly attracted 30 per cent more applicants than those that did not.
     However there are other downsides to flexible working. It can also be a polite name for zero-hours contracts and other types of insecurity which is a feature of modern capitalism. This “flexibility” means that people have to sit by their phones to know if they are going to work and earn anything that day.
     The pandemic has enforced flexible working in the form of imposed working from home. This has become surprisingly popular as people can get an extra hour in bed and calls have been made for these arrangements to be made permanent. However this obviously does not apply to everyone. Nobody can make a cup of coffee or take out an appendix over the computer.
     People who claim that their jobs can be done from their spare room in the suburbs ought to be aware that some bosses might take them at their word and replace workers in the office with those in a call centre in downtown Bangalore. This point seems to have been somewhat neglected by well-meaning advocates of home working.
     The TUC says that after the pandemic workers should get more flexible working patterns, but warns that “steps need to be taken to ensure that the experience of those working from home does not mirror the damaging one sided ‘flexibility’ experienced by so many on zero-hours contracts, with arrangements imposed that only benefit employers”.
     It demands that increased access to remote working must not come at the price of reductions to workers pay, increased intrusive remote surveillance, unsafe working environments, lack of access to union representatives, an increase in unpaid hours worked and draining, always-on cultures”.
     During the pandemic homeworkers put in many extra hours. The Office of National Statistics which points out that people who completed any work from home did six hours of unpaid overtime on average per week in 2020, compared with 3.6 hours for those that never worked from home.
     The TUC takes up a pledge in the 2019 Tory manifesto to make flexible working the default. It demands that a legal duty to be imposed “on employers to consider which flexible working arrangements are available in a role and publish these in job advertisements”, which naturally provides plenty of wriggle room for bosses.
     More precisely it wants to abolish zero-hours contracts by giving workers the right to a contract that reflects their regular hours with at least four weeks’ notice of shifts and compensation for cancelled shifts and to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Home Work Convention.
     Mobile phones and email now mean that many workers are on call even when having a bath at home, therefore the urgency of introducing a statutory right for employees and workers to disconnect from their work so as to create “communication free” time in their lives is important.
    Another urgent question is that fact that every keystroke can be recorded for ever by your boss. So there is an urgent need to “amend employment and data protection legislation and provide for statutory guidance to ensure that no unlawful discriminatory decisions can be made using artificial intelligence”.
     At the same time the TUC demand that employers should provide and maintain the equipment necessary for home workers to work safely and effectively (not just electronic equipment) and provide the training needed for a person to do their job remotely.
     After making these modest legislative demands the TUC doffs its cap to respectfully point out that “employers do not need to wait for legislative change in making genuine flexible work the default in their workplaces and ensuring that all workers have the opportunity to benefit from positive flexibility that helps them to balance work and home life”.
     Needless to say the TUC says that unions should be involved in discussions on such matters, and equally unexpectedly does not suggest taking any militant action to secure these gains.
     The TUC argues that “making flexible working available in all but the most exceptional of circumstances would be an important catalyst for promoting greater gender equality” as part-time work appeals to women with child-care responsibilities, and recognises that they are often forced into it.
     The report reminds us that about 3.6 million workers were in insecure work in 2019 out of a workforce of over 27 million. This unlucky 13 per cent is twice as likely to be from the ethnic minorities than white workers.
     For them “flexibility” is something of a joke. Those with no or few guaranteed hours are often offered work at the whim of their employer, facing irregular hours and therefore irregular income, as well as last minute shift cancellations. Picking and choosing hours is non-existent as many feel compelled to work whenever asked, fearing that if shifts are rejected they will not be asked again. Sick pay, protections from unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay are non-existent.
     The pandemic made things worse when 67 per cent of insecure workers saying they received nothing when off sick compared with 7 per cent of secure workers. Needing to self-isolate or take time off sick needs money many do not have.