Here’s a campaign we can all support (I bloody well hope so, anyway):
The marchers set off from Jarrow on Saturday and will pass through 23 town and cities on their way to London on 6 September. Every MP who’s voted for privatisation or other measures that undermine the NHS, whose constituency is on the route, will be targeted.
The march website is here.
Above: Caroline Leneghan
An extraordinary crisis has erupted at the Morning Star (de facto mouthpiece of the British Communist Party), resulting in the resignations of the editor and the company director. It stems from reporter Rory McKinnon’s questioning of the RMT leadership over allegations of domestic abuse on the part of the union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley (which Shiraz covered here).
McKinnon, who resigned from the Star on 25 July, has written an account of what happened to him at the Star, at the blog Another Angry Woman. This is important, not least because much of the British trade union movement (without reference to their membership) funds the Morning Star:
This is a guest post by Rory McKinnon. Content warning for domestic violence. It is published with permission of the survivor.
“The public have no right to know”: how the Morning Star threatened to sack me for reporting domestic violence allegations
My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturday afternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.
It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me with the sack, hauled me through a disciplinary hearing and placed me on a final written warning.
If you want to see my reasons for writing this, skip to the bottom. But I’m a reporter, and in my mind the most important thing is that you all know exactly what’s happened behind closed doors. So let’s get on with it.
Last March a former RMT assistant branch secretary, Caroline Leneghan, went public about what she described as a “violent assault” at the hands of Hedley while they had been in a relationship.
“On this occasion he kicked a pot of paint at me, threw me around by my hair and pinned me to the floor repeatedly punching me in the face.”
Leneghan said she had approached both police and the union after their break-up to seek an investigation: her RMT rep confirmed that police had suggested “a high chance of conviction” but that the six-month window for a charge of common assault had since expired.
Despite this, the union’s then-leadership had decided not to refer the allegations to its national executive for a formal investigation. It was at this point that Leneghan decided to go public (you can find Leneghan’s full statement and photographs here).
Now, I don’t pretend to have any inside knowledge, and at the time I had only just been assigned to a post in Scotland and was busy trying to get my feet in under the table up there. But I am a journalist, and when the union agreed to consider an appeal from Leneghan only to see it eventually withdrawn at her request – amid a pretty vile reaction from some elements of the left – I mentally filed it away as something to keep an eye on.
In March of this year I went as a Morning Star reporter – with the RMT’s approval – to cover its women’s conference in Glasgow. Women I knew of in the RMT were still talking about Leneghan’s case, and it made sense to me as a reporter to follow it up in the public interest, so I took advantage of a Q&A session with the union’s national organising co-ordinator Alan Pottage – a session on recruiting women organisers and combating sexism in the workplace – to ask whether he thought the lack of formal investigation into the allegations against Hedley had affected women members’ perceptions of the union. Pottage declined to comment and the session continued, but when delegates reconvened for the afternoon session the union’s equalities officer Jessica Webb and executive member Denis Connor approached my seat and forcibly ejected me from the conference. (You can find my full statement on the incident here).
The very next day the Morning Star’s editor Richard Bagley informed me that I had been suspended following allegations of gross misconduct and that any public comment I might make “could risk bringing the paper into disrepute and could have a bearing on [my] case”. (You can see the letter here and subsequent charges here.)
Six weeks later, I found myself back in London for a disciplinary hearing, with the company’s secretary Tony Briscoe bringing the charges and Bagley sitting in judgement. But as the Morning Star management’s minutes (for some reason presented as a verbatim transcript), and my own notes here show, it quickly became clear that the real nature of the accusations had nothing to do with the charge sheet and everything to do with appeasement.
From the minutes:
“RB: You have three years’ experience as a Morning Star journalist. Given the type of stories you’ve covered previously do you think the paper would have published a story on the issue you raised?”
“RB: So let’s clarify the role of the Morning Star here: internal union matters are different from inter-union matters.”
“TB: It’s debatable whether the NUJ (National Union of Journalists – Rory) code of conduct applies in a situation such as this and the fact you asked it raises a question about your approach. The question feels more like something a Daily Mail reporter would ask than someone from the Morning Star. You should have known better. This indicates a lack of journalistic etiquette and has damaged our relationship with the trade union movement.”
And from my own notes:
TB: “I would have thought the role of the Morning Star reporter was to progress the aims & goals of the paper.”
TB: “I would expect that sort of question to be asked in the Daily Mail or the Sun.”
TB: “I would say the public has no right to know about the ins-&-outs of the relationship between Leneghan & Hedley.”
Shortly afterwards I received Bagley’s written judgement. Again, you can read it for yourself here, but the thrust of the Morning Star’s editorial policy is below:
“After three years at the paper you should reasonably be expected to be familiar with the paper’s news priorities, which do not include reporting internal union rows or personal controversy. Your actions suggest a fundamental failure to grasp the Morning Star’s news focus, and by extension the role of any journalist employed by it.”
I was placed on a final written warning with twelve months’ probation, then went on to appeal (dismissed, ruling here), but that’s procedural stuff that isn’t strictly relevant.
What’s relevant, to my mind, is that readers cannot trust the Morning Star’s current leadership to report on abuse allegations and failures to formally investigate when they concern favoured figures in the trade union movement, even when those figures are elected officials. As the edition for 24 July shows, however – coincidentally the same day I had decided to give my notice – those Nasty Tories cannot expect such discretion. Feminist principles are a weapon with which to attack the right, but not an end in itself for the left.
I’ve written this because I was told that “the public has no right to know.” I think the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union’s members do have a right to know about their leaders’ decision not to hold a formal investigation into reports of violence against a female member, and I think the Morning Star’s readers and supporters also have a right to know that the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.
It is quite possible that the Morning Star’s management committee – a panel which includes the National Assembly of Women’s Anita Wright – have not been told anything about this. If so, I hope that they will investigate and reassert the paper’s editorial independence. I am not trying to wreck the Morning Star here. I am insisting that it commits to its feminist principles and treats readers with the respect they deserve.
UPDATE – This post was drafted on Saturday 26 July, the day after informing the Morning Star’s management of my intent to quit. On Monday 28, the paper announced company secretary Tony Briscoe’s retirement and editor Richard Bagley’s departure “for family reasons”. Bagley would continue to work for the paper, the report added.
ETA: The survivor has clarified some of the sequence of events. Caroline says:
“There’s a mistake here, the executive refused me to appeal, after that the only route was the agm, which is the quashed one, as i realised all my documents, statements etc had been distributed to hundreds of people without my knowledge”
ETA 2 (19.14 08/08/14): The MS have issued a statement denying everything. To borrow their phrasing, it is interesting to note they haven’t started issuing libel threats…
The late Robin Williams was, by all accounts, a good guy. He was certainly on our side:
WAC-MAN, the Workers’ Advice Centre, is an independent trade union centre organising both Israeli-Jewish and Arab workers, in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Below is its statement on the current war on Gaza, reposted from its website here.
The Independent Trade Union Centre WAC-MAAN, unionizing Arabs and Jews in Israel, calls on the Israeli government to stop the attack on Gaza. The only livable alternative is a political settlement based on a two-state solution.
WAC MAAN calls on trade unions and peace supporters all over the world to initiate activities and pressure their governments to demand an end to Israel’s war against the Palestinian people.
The military escalation in Gaza, where civilians are being killed and homes destroyed, while rockets from Hamas confound the lives of Israelis, is a direct result of the swaggering anti-peace policy carried out by the Netanyahu-Bennett-Lieberman government. The attempt to obtain a Palestinian surrender by bombing civilian targets is criminal, reckless, and pregnant with disaster. This is the third such round in five years, and it is already clear that when it is done, the two sides will return to precisely the same point as in December 2008-January 2009 and November 2012. The Palestinian side has again endured destruction of buildings and infrastructure, with more than a hundred dead and thousands wounded so far, while millions of Israeli civilians are exposed to rockets.
WAC-MAAN, which unionizes thousands of Arabs and Jews in Israel, calls for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks, based on an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of 1967 and the formation of an independent Palestinian state.
It was the Netanyahu government that broke the US-sponsored framework of negotiations and started a wave of settlement building. Then it came out against the Fatah-Hamas unity government—a step that amounted to blatant interference in an internal Palestinian issue. The diplomatic stalemate, and the failure to fulfill the promised fourth stage of the Palestinian prisoner release, formed the background to the kidnapping of three Israeli youths. In response, Netanyahu proclaimed an all-out war against Hamas, hence against the Palestinian unity government.
The next step occurred when Netanyahu’s extremist position, along with calls for vengeance on the part of some cabinet ministers, incited rightwing Israeli extremists to kidnap a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and burn him alive. When the government sought to sidestep any responsibility for this horror, the Palestinian street exploded. Protesters took to the streets in Jerusalem and the Arab cities of Israel.
The present escalation, which includes Israel’s bombardments of Gaza and the launching by Hamas and others of primitive rockets against civilian targets in Israel, has sparked initiatives from the international community for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. Yet Netanyahu insolently repeats that he has no intention of initiating a cease fire, rather he’ll go on raising the ante until the Palestinians produce a white flag. To this end the Israeli army has introduced a new tactic: bombing the homes of Hamas activists. By any account that is a war crime, and it has caused more than 100 casualties in the first four days of fighting. Most of the victims are civilians, many of them children.
Amid the attacks, we must not forget the events that led to the war. After the kidnapping of its youths, the Israeli government launched an all-out offensive against Hamas in the West Bank, broke its agreements by re-arresting more than fifty Hamas members who had been freed in the Shalit deal of 2011, and did all it could to foil the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Netanyahu, in short, dragged Hamas into a showdown. Given these provocations, Israel’s government bears the ultimate responsibility for every drop of blood that has been and will be shed in the present war.
WAC-MAAN joins many others, both here and abroad, in calling on both sides to reach a ceasefire. The only livable alternative is a political arrangement, the principles of which are embedded in the long-existing UN resolutions and concurred in by the entire international community.
Those paying the price of the present war are the workers on both sides. We call on trade unions and peace supporters all over the world to initiate activities and pressure their governments to demand an end to Israel’s war against the Palestinian people.
No to a war aimed at perpetuating the Occupation! Yes to peace talks on the basis of the two-state solution!
H/t: Workers Liberty
We’re reproducing another article by Jon Lansman of Left Futures. A behind-the-scenes supporter of Shiraz, who holds a senior position in one of the major unions, recommends Jon’s stuff as the best informed and most incisive commentary there is on the Labour-union link. This secret Shiraz-supporter particularly likes the way Jon brings out the fact (ignored by the likes of the Socialist Party and the SWP) that the trade union leadership is 100% complicit in all the Labour leadership’s “betrayals.”
Above: Unite funds the People’s Assembly, but Len votes for austerity at Labour’s NPF
The climax of Labour’s formal policy process this weekend which had involved 1,300 amendments from local parties to eight policy documents, filtered down and composited by 77 regional representatives, was a debate on austerity. That’s fitting given that it is the foundation of the Coalition’s disastrous economic policy and, unfortunately, in a lighter version, of Ed Balls’s approach too.
What was less fitting, indeed shocking, was that it was a debate in which George McManus, the Yorkshire constituency representative moving the amendment, was given just one minute to speak, and Ed Balls the same. George made a great speech which you can read below. Ed’s speech consisted of a list of those who had withdrawn their amendments in favour of the “consensus wording” as if that was a sufficient argument for the perpetuation of austerity (and he ran over his time). There were no other speakers. The vote was 127 to 14 against the proposal that Labour’s policy be amended to read:
We recognise that the cost of living crisis is inextricably linked to government’s self-defeating austerity agenda. That is why we will introduce an emergency budget in 2015 to reject Tory spending plans for 2015-16 and beyond and set out how we will pursue a policy of investment for jobs and growth.”
Those voting against included some people representing the seven CLPs and numerous NPF members who had submitted almost identical wording and many more who essentially agreed with the amendment including representatives of all major trade unions (I’m told media and entertainment union BECTU voted for). After the vote, some of them, including leading MPs and trade unionists admitted their continuing support. They nevertheless felt compelled to vote against their own preferences and the policies of their unions. Continue reading →
From Eric Lee of LabourStart:
On 14 July 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 176 million workers around the globe, issued a call for an immediate ceasefire in the fighting between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza. The ITUC expressed its full support for the UN Security Council resolution calling for “de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire and respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”
Please show your support for the ITUC call:
And please share this with your fellow trade union members.
Up to two million workers will strike on 10 July. Members of unions in local government will strike to oppose a 1% pay offer, and are demanding an increase of at least £1 per hour or to the “Living Wage”, £7.65, or £8.80 in London. Other unions involved in the action have their own pay demands.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the cost of maintaining a decent standard of living in the UK has risen by 46% since 2008, while wages have increased by just 9%. It’s the harshest squeeze on real wages in the UK since records began. According to TUC figures, around five million workers in Britain (20% of the total workforce) are paid less than the living wage.
The 10 July strike can be the start of a working class counter-offensive challenging the capitalist logic that demands workers pay for the financial crisis.
We need a plan, not just a day at a time
One-off strike days, each followed by a long wait until union leaders report back or call further action, aren’t nough.
The remedy is not just to convert one-day protest strikes into two-day protest strikes, but to plan continuing action, discussed and decided in advance by union members. This could include limited, selective action as well as all-out strikes and be directed by local strike committees.
Local strike committees should continue meeting after 10 July, and the executives of all the striking unions should meet together.
After 10th July?
Unison’s leaders have already talked about further strikes on 9 and 10 September. Unions should liaise with each other in order to pin down the most effective date, and other actions should be planned between now and then – even small, local events like lunchtime rallies, demos and street stalls.
NHS workers should be brought into the dispute. Unison should act on its 2014 Health sector conference decision to ballot for strikes over pay. Strike funds should be levied at both local and national level to ensure the lowest-paid workers are supported in taking sustained and escalating action.
On strike days every workplace should be picketed, with pickets approaching non-striking workers and attempting to persuade them not to cross. In 2011 some activists held members’ meetings with discussion and voting – not just set-piece rallies.’ We should organise such meetings this time, as well.
Unison leaflets here
If you can’t get to the London demo, here are the local picket lines and demos:
LONDON & EASTERN
The Woolwich Centre, Wellington Street, Woolwich
Luton Town Centre
5.15 am Morson Road, Depot, Enfield
10.00 am Walthamstow Market Square
(10.45 move to Oxford Circus and assemble outside
Broadcasting House, Great Portland Street for 11.30 am)
Barking & Dagenham
Civic Centre Dagenham
Frizlands Lane Depot
Barking Town Hall
Creek Road Depot
Civic Office, New Road, Grays
Oliver Close Depot, West Thurrock
Curzon Drive Depot, Grays
Ley Street Depot
Town Hall Ilford
Building 1000, Becton
Town Hall, Barking Road,
Folkstone Road Depot, East Ham
6.30 am Amey Depot
7.00 am Bayard Place (throughout the day)
11.30 am Beckers Park, Northampton
12.30 pm Rally at All Saints Plaza
5.00 am Stores Road Depot
7.00 am The Council House
7.45 am Middleton House
11.00 am Rally at The Market Square
11.00 am Rally at Rykneld Square
07.00 am Sulgrave Square
07.00 am Layton Road
07.00 am Blackbird Road
11.30 am Rally at King Street
11.30 am Rally at Brayford Wharf North
12.30 Rally at City Square
Nottingham City Homes
10.30 am Rally at Forest Recreation Ground
7.30 am Town Hall, WS1 1TW
7.30 am Civic Centre staff entrance & environmental depot
200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills WS8 7EN
10.30 am Sandwell mbc organising a mass demo outside
the council house, oldbury with free transport to the TUC
demo in Birmingham
07.30 am. Civic Centre, Swann House
Hanley town hall
Cromer Road depot
Kingsway Stoke, outside the civic centre – rally
NORTH EAST, YORKSHIRE & HUMBERSIDE
11.00 am Northumberland Road (next to City Hall), Newcastle
Northumberland County Council, Stakeford Depot
Durham County Council, Meadowfield Depot
Redcar & Cleveland Council Depot
Middlesbrough Council, Town Hall
Civic (front & back)
Woolston School Base
07.30 Green & Clean Depot, Port Royal Street
07.30 Civic Offices, Guildhall Square
08.00 City Museum, Museum Road
10.00 Portsmouth International Port
12.00 pm Rally at Guildhall Square