Berwick & District Trades Union Council recently held its first monthly meeting of 2012 and a number of important issues were discussed.
The meeting reviewed the successful activity carried out by the council leading up to the Public Service Strike of November 30th and pledged its continued support for any further action in defence of pensions and services. Private sector pensions are also an issue of concern. The oil giant Shell recently closed its final salary pension scheme to new employees. This company, which made profits of two million an hour, say they cannot afford to pay the people who generate that profit a decent pension but the former Chief Executive of Shell has a pension pot of £21,600,000 which yields him £1,200,000 a year.
A delegate to the People’s Charter meeting in Derby last year gave a report. The People’s Charter is a list of detailed and costed alternatives to the Con/Dem Government’s agenda of cuts and unemployment. As the economic crisis trundles on the wealth of the super rich continues to balloon. The Sunday Times Rich List found that the 1,000 richest people in the UK got richer by £77.3 billion in 2010 and by another £60 billion in 2011. Nor was this just a freak jackpot. In 1997 the richest 1,000 had assets of £99 billion – by 2011 this had grown to £396 billion. Capital Gains Tax at 28% on the increase in the value of these assets over the period would raise £83 billion – two thirds of the deficit. There are perfectly good alternatives but this Government is about defending privilege and making the poor pay for their crisis.
A delegate from the Berwick Justice Not War Coalition led a discussion on the use of drones in military activities by the USA in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Drones are controlled by “pilots” on the ground and increasingly autonomously following a computer programme. We have heard little of the ethical concerns over these weapons. They are perhaps too easy a method of killing that removes the “pilot” from the target leading to a “play station” mentality. Britain will soon have this capability and will deploy them at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. There doesn’t seem to be an economic crisis or a shortage of money when it comes to the latest thing in killing people or renewing the Trident Missile System.
Finally a delegate raised the on-going Electricians Dispute, which has the council’s full support. A new “Agreement” is being imposed by big contractor employers on these trades which involves cuts in pay by up to 30 percent. Perhaps some of these electricians have been working on the “shard of glass,” now the tallest building in Europe. Situated in the London Borough of Southwark, it has apartments at the top which will cost “tens of millions.” In the streets of the borough below there are two thousand 16 – 24 year olds with little prospect of work, education or training opportunities, and their situation can only get worse.
Last Thursday the RMT union with the council leafleted Berwick Station on the proposed McNulty cuts and received a very good response from passengers.
Berwick Trades Union Council fully supports the action being taken by the Rail Trade Unions against the McNulty Report on the future of rail services. The McNulty Report calls for yet more fare rises and the reduction of services to passengers through the loss of thousands of front line staff from trains, stations, ticket offices and safety critical infrastructure and operational roles. The Report completely ignores the lessons from Europe where networks have lower costs and fares through a more unified and publicly owned rail networks. The drive to cut wages, jobs and services in the industry must be viewed against the Network Rail Chief Executive’s basic salary of £560,000, plus an annual bonus of £336,000, plus another £2,800,000 over the next five years.
And Cameron and Clegg keep telling us we are all in this together!