January 2011

Employer's Charter will encourage firms to cut pay and get rid of staff

This week the government issued its Employer's Charter - basically a statement of existing rights that companies have to treat their staff as business assets that can be used and abused as they see fit.

The HLC's understanding of the legal situation is a little different. Many of the statements in the Employer's Charter can be challenged in individual cases in one way or another - either by industrial strength or by application to a tribunal. The charter actually reminds employers that they must act "fairly and reasonably" and in line with their "legal obligations". However, this document must be seen as intended to encourage employers to put business interests before those of their employees and we consider it to be highly provocative to the principles of trade unionism.

As mentioned above, the charter does not actually introduce any new laws and has been criticised as being "doomed to obscurity" by employment lawyers. But it does suggest that employment relationships are likely to become more confrontational and that membership of a trade union is more vital now than ever.




30th January 2011

Top Ten Tax Shirkers - Last Day to Vote

Anti-cuts website The False Economy is conducting an online survey on who the public think are the worst offenders responsible for lost UK tax revenues. Voting closes at midnight tonight (30th January 2011). The ten nominated companies are Barclays, Boots, Google, George Osbourne, HMV, HM Customs, KMPG, Arcadia, SABMiller and of course Vodafone. Have your say -



UK Uncut reminds us that it is the last opporttunity to return our self assessment forms and the penaltes that await us if we are late or fail to pay the right amount. It also highlights the multinationals who, by avoiding paying their full share of the tax burden are making our own contributions so much higher. Find out who they will be naming and shaming today at their website below.


30th January 2011

TUC and students hold marches against cuts in Manchester and London

As part of the ongoing campaign against the devastaing cuts to the education budget, marches are taking place today in London and Manchester. The coalition has effectively denied perhaps hundreds of thousands of young people the opportunity to go to university while cutting the jobs of thousands of tutors. Meanwhile millions of 16-18 year olds have come under increased pressure to leave school and get jobs (if they can) because of the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Young unemployed people will suffer from the abolition of the Young Person's Guarantee, which promised that within six months of becoming unemployed, young people would get jobs, training or work experience.

The Lib-Dem's remarkable u-turn on education, a central platform of their manifesto should be a reminder of how shallow their ethical convictions are when compared with their desire to get an active role in parliament. We view the speed with which they broke their promises to the electorate to be nothing less than disgraceful.


29th January 2011

Chancellor attacks trade unions and Labour

Chancellor George Osbourne was outspoken today in his defence of the government program of cuts and attacked his critics, who he describes as "forces of stagnation". Mr. Osbourne was recting to scrutiny of the coalition's financial policy after it was revealed this week that the UK economy had shrunk by 0.5% and even the former head of the Confederation for British Industry accused the government of a "lack of vision"..

The Chancellor also made comments about possible changes in the law that might make it harder for critics of the cuts to kae action. In particular, the government has refused to rule out a ban on co-ordinated strike action, presumably in fear of a general strike, as took place in 1926.

The HLC considers that the shrinking of the economy was a predictable consequence of the rise in VAT and that consumer confidence is likely to be further damaged by 500,000 public sector job cuts and the cancellation of major government contracts in the private sector. Cuts in public services will seriously harm the prospects and standard of living of those who are most vulnerable.


28th January 2011

TUC says that cuts will lead to a "lost generation"

With around a million of Britain's under 25 year olds unemployed, the TUC has said that the coalition's programme of cuts risk creating a lost generation that is denied the opportunity for decent educations or careers.

The government has already abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance to help 16-18 year olds remain in school and cut funding to the Young Persons' Guarantee, which promised that every young person unemployed for over six months would receive a job, training or work experience.

Assistant TUC General Secretary Kay Carberry says, 'We need investment in industry, in jobs and in skills. We need a strategy for growth. We need the rich to pay their taxes, not avoid paying their dues. We need a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions so that the big financial institutions help get us out of the mess they helped create."

 The TUC in partnership with the NUS and UCU have organised "A Future That Works"  rally in Manchester tomorrow (29th January) to promote an alternatiive strategy of investment in jobs. Attendees will include Unite General Secretary Len McClusky and representatives from PCS, the NUT, FBU, GMB and ATL.


28th January

Vince Cable admits to plans to restrict right to claim for unfair dismissal

In interviews with BBC television and radio, Business Secretary Vince Cable has stated that he believes that making it easier for employers to dismiss staff will encourage them to employ more people. Proposals under consideration include -

  • Increasing the length of service requirement to apply to an employment tribunal from 1 year to 2 years
  • Requiring a fee (possibly as high as £500) to register a claim with an ET
  • Requiring applications to tribuanals be screened, with weaker and malicious cases rejected
  • Having written witness statements replce the attnedence of witnesses (who then could not be cross examined)

The TUC says that measures are already in place to deal with malicious and weak claims, including the power of tribunals to require a deposit to be paid in advance if there is a very weak prospect of success. It says that the proposals will merely assist rogue employers to treat staff unethically.


27th January 2011

BA and Iberia begin trading as IAG and look to buy into other airlines

International Airlines Group, which was formed by the merger of BA and Iberia is now in its first day of trading as the new company. It is believed that the company will hope to save around £400 million Euros through the new arrangement, though it is not sure how many job losses this is likely to result in.

IAG has indicated that it will quickly add other airlines to its portfolio, with Kingfisher and at least one Chinese carrier seen as likely targets. Qantas is also believed to be on IAG's wish list, though so far has said that it is not interested.

Meanwhile Abu Dhabi based airline Ethiad has expressed a strong interest in buying into Virgin after Richard Branson announced that he was prepared to sell a large proportion of his shares.


24th January 2011

Aviance insurers agree to pay out £220,000 to family of killed engineer

Skyport reports that the family of Mohammed Abbasi Taj, who was killed in March 2008 after he was crushed by the tug he was working on have agreed a settlement of £220,000 with his employer's insurer after a high court battle. Hopefully after nearly three years of trying to achieve justice, this will bring some form closure to the family from Hayes in Middlesex. The accident happened near Heathrow's Terminal 1.

Mr. Taj was killed after the jack supporting the tug under which he was working slipped. A Health and Safety Executive investigation reported that the engineers for Aviance UK Ltd. were provided with jacks, but not axle stands, which exposed their enhineers to unnecessary risk. The HSE fined Aviance £90,000, who were also ordered to pay £18,800 in court costs.

The HLC hopes that Heathrow employers take note of the scale of the financial penalties and bad publicity that Aviance received in this case and will ensure that they provide suitable and properly maintained equipment to their staff, adequate training and supervision and sufficient assessment of the risks to which they are exposed.

We ask Heathrow workers to join us in remembering those of our colleagues who have died or been seriously injured as a result of their work on Workers' Memorial Day on April the 28th. Across the world people are still 3 times more likely to die from their work than because of war and the activities of Health and Safety reps in creating a safety culture remains as important as ever. The coalition government's position that H&S legislation is an unnecessary burden on the employer must be challenged and we deplore the 25% cut in the HSE's already inadequate funding.


23rd January 2011

 Scale of British Airways union busting tactics starts to become known

Since Unite conducted its own survey of its members in BA, it has become clear quite how low the BA management have sunk in their desperate attempts to destroy the union and intimidate its members. We have not been able to verify every single one of these claims, but many of them are a matter of public record and have been reported in the national newspapers. The following are just a sample of the claims of dirty tricks reported to Unite and the HLC.

  • At least 4 Unite members report BA's shadowy Asset Protection team carried out surveillance at their homes
  • Over 150 cabin crew and reps suspended, dismissed or subjected to disciplinary charges for legitimate trade union activities
  • Administrative staff ordered to "volunteer" to cover cabin crew during strikes and told they would be dismissed if they did not
  • Staff Facebook page monitored and staff disciplined (dismissed) for harmless comments such as "I'd like to see that document too" (referring to an internal memo that was believed to exist ordering managers to use special disciplinary procedures in relation to the dispute)
  • A member of staff suspended for making a Christmas collection for sacked and suspended employees
  • Nearly 50% of employees surveyed (@950) reported being bullied by management and 42% reported witnessing such bullying
  • Advance threats to penalise staff if they were sick during the strike period

Unsurprisingly, with this level of intimidation, it has been difficult to get BA staff to provide us with more specific details. It isn't paranoid to think that your every move is being watched when there is so much evidence that this seems to be accepted management practice. Rightly or wrongly, many staff believe that they have had phone calls recorded, e-mails monitored and photos or video taken of themselves outside of work. BA management can hardly blame their employees for not trusting them as we move towards yet another costly and damaging dispute.

22nd January 2011

Len McCluskey and Ken Livingstone to address activists on coalition cuts

On February the 5th 2011, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone will address activists on the damage to jobs, services and the standard of living of the most vulnerable peole in Britain by the coalitions package of cuts. The meeting will take place at 10.30 in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL and finish about 16.30.

Unite members and activists from the London and Eastern and South East regions are welcome to attend, but there are only 400 places available. Lunch will be provided and members may be able to claim travel expenses if they live outside the London area. For more details, follow the link below -


22nd January 2011

BA cabin crew vote for fresh strikes

British Airways' cabin crew have voted for a new series of strikes with a 75% turnout and nearly 80% of the returns being in favour of industrial action. No dates for strikes have been set as yet, but could be as early as the end of this month.

In the dispute last year the influence of CEO Willie Walsh caused substantial problems in reaching a settlement. BA and Iberia are now finalising their staus as a merged company called IAG,, with Keith Williams taking over in the senior role at BA and. Walsh moving on to govern IAG. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Walsh will allow Mr. Williams to carry out his role in negotiations without interference.

The issues in this dispute are not the same as those of last year, but closely connected with the way that union mambers and their representatives have been treated over the past 12 months, with a reported 150 people dismissed or subjected to disciplinary proceedings for union related activities, surveillance caried out at employees' homes and half of staff complaining that they have been bullied by management.

The outcome of this dispute will have a massive impact on industrial relations throughout the UK and possibly beyond. The HLC would ask Unite branches to hold motions of support for BA cabin crew and for individual members to send messages of support in to BASSA or us for forwarding. 



21st January 2011

Aer Lingus suspends 100 cabin crew over refusal to work new rosters

HR magazine People Management reports that Aer Lingus have suspended around 100 cabin crew from the union Impact over their refusal to work a new roster that increases the number of hours flying time that they are required to work. Management state that the majority of union members have agreed to the changes, but the union is claiming that the new rosters have a disproportionate effect on female crew and are therefore discriminatory. Impact has asked Ireland's Labour Council to intervene.


21st January 2011

National Audit Office to investigate Vodafone tax

Following massive publicity due to UK Uncut's campaign, the National Audit Office is to investigate claims that Vodafone had up to £6 billion of its tax liabilities waived by HMRC. Vodafone is believed to be just one of many companies that have managed to avoid paying their full tax bills. Estimates as to the sums involved range from between £25 billion and £150 billion. We understand that the TUC believes the higher figure to be more accurate.

The HLC is at a loss to explain why large corporations are allowed to avoid their liabilities by the government at the same time as ordinary people are being asked to foot the massive bill for the recession. We look forward to seeing the results published.



20th January 2011

John McDonnell MP meets HLC to brief on government cuts. The end of the Welfare State?

Hayes and Harlington MP, John McDonnell visited the HLC today to brief Unite's trade unionists on the state of the government cuts. It would not be overstating matters to say that some of the newer reps were genuinely shocked at the scale of the coalitions cuts, the loss of services and the number of job losses that are likely to result. This week alone there have been massive attacks on public services. The following are just a few of the things that working people and unemployed shoud be worried about -

  • Localism Bill - Council housing to end in it's current form. Houses to be issued on 2 year lease to tennants who will then be means tested and evicted if found to be wealthy enough to afford public sector rents. Housing benefits to be cut below the average level of rents in Heathrow area.
  • Health Bill - £80 billion of funding to be moved from primary care trusts to GPs (in theory). However, as GPs not used to manging these sums of money, will probably be handled by a small number of private sector fund managers such as BUPA. These are likely to focus on cost reduction by job cuts, outsourcing and restructuring. £20 billion to be cut from health budget by 2014-2015. Hillingdon Hospital is feared to be under threat of closure with patients redirected to Northwick Park in Harrow or to Ealing.
  • Education - Education Maintenance Allowance that provides funds of £10 to £30 per week to low income families for 16 to 18 year olds to stay in education has been abolished. Funding for University tutors to be slashed leading to job losses and higher tuition fees. Estimated yearly cost of a student going to a local university (such as Brunel) to rise from £3,000 to £7,000.
  • Unemployment - Currently at 2.5 million. Public sector job losses of 500,000 to follow. Each public sector job loss can lead to up to 4 further job losses. Hillingdon council not releasing figures on job cuts, but one estimate is around 400 jobs to go. Under 25 year olds with very poor employment prospects - which they cannot improve except by building up massive debts by going to university.
  • Union rights - Government considering 2 systems of making it harder for workers to strike. First is insisting on 50% return on ballots for strike to be legal (most ballots have a turnout of below 50%) and secondly by making it illegal to strike in certain industrial sectors (such as transport). Proposals from business sector to make it harder to apply to an Employment Tribunal by making it a requirement that the employee has 2 years service and/or that employee has to pay a fee up front (which could be up to £500).

John McDonnell is one of the most active MPs in Westminster and has been an enormous help to the HLC since we were formed in 2007. His website can be found at www.john-mcdonnell.net/

20th January 2011

Coalition breaks more election promises with cuts to Education and NHS

Following on from the Lib Dems breaking of their election promises to protect education and not to raise fees for students, the coalition has now voted to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance - a funding system that was introduced to help children from low income families to continue in education beyond the age of 16. This can only have the effect of reducing social mobility, protecting the class system and keeping the divisions between rich and poor. Despite Labour's attempts and protests by teachers and students outside parliament today, the vote to abolish the fund succeeded by 56 votes.


On the issue of health - the coalition has published its Health and Social Care Bill, which would create the biggest change to the way the NHS is funded in England since it was founded. Prior to the election the Conservatives made a number of promises to protect the NHS and its funding in which it clearly indicated that there would not be a major restructuring. In fact, the coalition has demanded that the NHS save £20 billion by 2014-2015. Some estimates of the job losses that are likely to result from this shake up are in the region of 50,000 in the Greater London area alone. Groups representing unions, GPs and nurses are among those who have criticised the Bill and surgeons have indicated that lives will be lost from the pressure to cancel operations to cut down on costs.



Read Unite's response to the NHS proposals below -


19th January 2011

Boris Johnson says Heathrow has dropped from 2nd to 7th and calls for new airport in Kent

A report prepared for Boris Johnson claims that Heathrow has dropped from 2nd to 7th in the rankings of international airports (by its own assessment system). Boris himself is persisting with his calls for a new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary, despite locals, environmentalists, economists and even Mr. Johnson's Conservatives condemning the proposals, which would cost around £40 billion - about four times the amount paid for BAA's seven airports in 2007.

Whilst the HLC accepts the reports comments that UK aviation is under threat from hub locations such as Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid and Dubai, we consider his proposals even less viable than when he first made them over 2 years ago. In the current economy and with reduced profit margins due to fuel prices, taxes and fierce competition between airlines and airport operators, no one is likely to provide this level of funding - which would then require huge investment on the transport infrastructure of the Thames estuary to make it viable.

The environmentalists would point out that this area is a key site for migratory birds - which would need to be culled or driven away to avoid the danger of bird strikes on aircraft. Kent and Essex residents do not want the additional noise and traffic that would result. West Londoners would face the loss of a possible 150,000 jobs, property prices would collapse and council and treasury revenues would plummet. Development of Heathrow could be acheived at a fraction of the cost, even if the budget included paying for improved noise insulation for local residents, new rail links and road improvements.


19th January 2011

Guardian speculates that US action against Wikileaks could mean end of free press

Without passing comment on the likelihood of Julian Assange being innocent or guilty of the charges made against him in Sweden, the HLC must agree with some of the comments in today's Guardian about the dangers to free speech that are implied by the US government's action against Wikileaks.

Mr. Assange's lawyers have argued against his extradition from the UK to Sweden to face charges of rape and that it would be likely to be followed by an extradition order made to Sweden by the US where a number of high profile figures have been demanding that he be given the death penalty, despite (to the best of our knowledge) Wikileaks' alleged "crimes" not having been in the United States. In theory this could mean that a UK journalist (or the complier of a web site such as this one) might be extradited and charged for posting articles that the US believes contravenes its National Security legislation.

The HLC does not know the contents of the vast majority of the Wikileaks cables, but those we have seen in the Guardian do not appear to compromise US security - except by virtue of the fact that they report actions by the US government, that had they been performed by another country such as Iran would immediately be described as war crimes. We believe that the following leaked claims were certainly in the public interest and necessary to hold governmental and corporate power to account -

  • The US government provided intelligance data to the Ugandan government to help it fight rebels, even though that had reason to believe that this data would be used to help Ugandan troops commit war crimes
  • The petrochemical giant Shell had placed staff in every department of the Nigerian government
  • The high proportion of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq caused by allied troops, though the US denied that it possessed any figures on civilian casualties


Russia's reaction has predictably been rather different to that of the US and the Kremlin has apparently been recommending that organisations nominate Julian Assange for the Nobel Peace Prize.


14th January 2011

BA could face more strikes by end of January

Skyport reports that BA could face more strikes by the end of this month, as Unite concludes a ballot of cabin crew which is expected to return a strong "yes" vote for industrial action. Should the ballot return such a result, Unite will have to give seven days notice of any such action.

The dispute, which has been running for over a year has been fueled by heavy handed management tactics that resulted in nearly half of staff reporting that they had been subject to bullying. Since it started, Unite's representatives and active union members have found themselves subject to disciplinary action and dismissal - in one case for carrying out a Christmas collection for sacked and suspended workers. Some have actually been targeted by having surveillance carried out on their activities at their homes by BA. This will have been seen as extremely provocative and damaging to industrial relations.


13th January 2011

Prime Minister admits to considering curbs to rights to strike - unions say not justified

In Prime Minister's question time today, David Cameron said that he was prepared to review legislation about the requirements for a strike ballot to be legal. In particular he indicated that he would be looking at a suggestion that a strike ballot be made unlawful if less than 50% of members of a union took part in the ballot.

Regular readers of the Eurpoean and International section of our website may recall that we predicted in September that Mr. Cameron would be looking at ways of depriving union members of the fundamental right of withdrawing their labour after an almost identical measure was put before the US Senate (and rejected).

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber described the proposal as a "cynical attempt" to distract attention from the problems the government was facing over bankers' bonuses and public sector job cuts.


12th January 2011

Unite General Secretary defends workers' rights to strike

Len McClusky, who officially becomes the new General Secretary at the end of this month today told Radio 4 that while he had never met a worker who wanted to go on strike, it was essential that they had the right to do so as a last resort. He also defended the right of the public to protest against the government's programme of cuts.

His comments were made afer Mr. McClusky attended a mass rally of British Airways cabin crew at Kempton Park earlier today, following which he said that he expected the crew to return a strong vote for strike action in the ballot that is currently being conducted. The strength of feeling is possibly a response to the bullying that 50% of BA staff surveyed report (see yesterday's article) and actions by BA management such as carring out surveillance of employees at their own homes (reported in September).


11th January 2011

Unite reacts to business proposal that workers should pay fee for taking employers to court

Unite has reacted angrily to a proposal that workers should have to pay between £30 and £500 to register a claim with an employment tribunal that they believe they have been treated unlawfully by their employers. The employers suggest that this would reduce the number of tribunal applications and stinulate business.

A worker can already have costs awarded against him of her if their case is ruled to be unfounded (with no sound legal grounds and therefore with little chance of success) or if it is malicious or frivolous. Such costs awards against the worker can in theory be much more, but in practice are usually limited to £10,000 - still a massive amount for someone who may have recently lost their job.

The HLC finds any such suggestion that an employee should be charged for taking action against an employer that may have carried out acts of discrimination, assault or unfairly dismissed that employee to be nothing less than obscene. The worker is already at a massive disadvantage against the employer - who often finds no difficulty paying perhaps £1,000 per hour to an expensive firm of solicitors to fight the claim. Only the trade unions help to redress the balance through the legal support that they provide.

A key body pressing for these changes is the CBI (Confederation for British Industry) - a group that has had a disproportionate influence on successive governments, both Labour and Conservative. The "wise" advice of this group included allowing the banks to carry out their business with very little restriction, which led to irresponsible lending policies and was a major reason that we are now having to pay for the debts built up by the treasury after it funded the bail out.

See Unite's comments below -


10th January 2011

One in two British Airways workers "is the victim of management bullying"

Skyport today reports that a recent survey in November 2010 of 2,000 members carried out by Unite shows that around half of those canvassed felt that they had been bullied or intimidated by their management. Those surveyed were mostly cabin crew. British Airways denies the claims.


See Unite's comments on the survey below -


Read the survey -

10th January 2011

Air Greenland pilots told to accept pay cut and to work longer hours or be replaced

Thr HLC was contacted today by the ETF (European Transport Workers Federation) and asked to highlight the situation of pilots at Air Greenland who were given an ultmatum to accept pay cuts and work longer hours or have their contracts terminated. After a failure to reach an agreement, management indicated that they would "lock out" their own pilots. It is anticipated that Air Greenland will use "wet leased" aircraft, an expensive  technique that was used bt Willie Walsh to limited effect in the recent (and ongoing) BASSA dispute.

Greenland, though the world's largest island that is not a continent has a population of less than 60,000. Due to its location it is heavily reliant on air travel to maintain its economy, which is particulary associated with Copenhagen in Denmark (of which it is an autonomous country.)

10th January 2011

Police used undercover officer to monitor Green activist group

Activists will be concerned at recent revelations that an undercover police officer was sent to monitor a green protest group that to the best of our knowledge had no history of illegal or violent conduct. The officer concerned, PC Mark Kennedy had been in place for nearly 10 years within the group when Police arrested 114 people, accusing them of planning to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. All charges against the group's members have since been dropped.

This operation, which is believed to have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money is not the first time that such police operations have been carried out and we are reminded of the miners' strikes of 1984-1985, where it was widely believed that police joined in with the ranks of the strikers and began throwing missiles at the police lines, thus allowing them to make baton charges and use force to move the miners off their picket lines. MI5 were certainly used to carry out monitoring activities of strikers, there was a campaign to undermine the credibility of union leaders and there were various tactics used to intimidate miners and stop them from travelling to the picket lines.


10th January 2011

Post Office workers protest but right wing think tank recommends many more privatisations

The BBC reports that 400 Post Office workers from the Communication Workers Union carried out a protest in David Cameron's home constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire over plans to privatise their company. The 3rd reading of the Postal Services Bill is due to take place on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the right wing think tank, the Adam Smith Institute has called for many more privatisations that they claim could raise as much as £90 billion in the short term if all government assets were sold. As mentioned in our education section, it is unclear how Adam Smith himself might have felt about this, as his version of capitalism was not a simple matter of "greed is good".

The HLC considers this a short sighted view. Past privatisations have had mixed success from the public's point of view, but always involve huge numbers of jobs being lost, wages forced down, outsourcing and pressure from shareholders to cut corners. This has resulted in underinvestment in many cases such as with our rail industry and demands for massive bail outs when the shareholders fail to make their expected profits. Usually only a small number of already rich people see any significant benefit from such privatisations - usually those who are very good at avoiding paying their taxes to the treasury.

This recession is not a time for protecting the wealth of the few, but a time to seek maximum employment for those who earn an honest living and actually do actually pay their taxes. (See previous article)



9th January 2011

Unite makes statement about banking bonuses

Unite the union is the largest union within the financial services sector. Unite represents the staff in the bank branches, call centres and processing offices of banks and insurance companies across the UK and Ireland.

7th January 2011

TUC General Secretary makes New Year statement

Brendan Barber, General Secretarty of the Trades Union Congress said in his statement - “2011 is going to be a horrible year. Unemployment will increase as thousands of public servants get made redundant. Just as many – if not more – private sector jobs will go, both as a direct result of the cuts and through the knock-on effects of reduced economic activity."Joint New Year Statement from Unite, Unison and GMB

Read his full statement below -


Unite, Unison and GMB make joint New Year statement

Wednesday 29th December 2010


Landmark New Year message pledges UK's biggest three unions to mobilise in 2011

Working people in the UK can help stop the Conservative-led coalition from taking a wrecking ball to the fabric of daily life.

That is the New Year's message to some 3.5 million workers across both the public and private sectors from their unions,GMB, Unison and Unite, who say that the government's dangerous prescription of economic deflation and historically high cuts will not revive the economy but will instead bring it to its knees.

The landmark joint message sees the three unions - the biggest in the UK - pledge that in 2011 they will inspire and support resistance to the cuts across the UK. They also vow to make the Spring elections the first referendum on the government's austerity programme. For full text of the statement see pdf at foot of this release

Such is the level of concern about the real intent behind the cuts - recasting the state so that the private sector can sweep in, allied to the fear that harsh cuts will cause endemic inequality across society and plunge a new generation into unemployment - that the unions have vowed to work tirelessly together throughout 2011 to pursue a sound economic alternative.

The unions are furious that the government is using the cover of coalition and a whipped-up fear over the deficit to terrify people into acceptance of what is little more than the rolling back of social provision. Pointing to the mounting dissent among economic experts over the government's approach, they say there is no programme for growth but only polices which will lead to a devastating contraction in the UK economy at a time when the global economy is still exhibiting deeply worrying signs of recession.

The unions say it is high time that the truth was told about the government's reckless policies. January will see the three embark on a programme of promoting an economic alternative to their members urging them to get active in both opposing cuts and making their voices heard at the May election, the first chance for large parts of country to vote on the government's cuts programme.

Central to the unions' message will be the push for an economic policy based on:

· Growth - and a clear programme for job creation

· Investment to get the unemployed back to work

· Maintaining universal, quality public services - and safeguarding them from costly private providers

· A fair taxation policy, including closing tax avoidance loopholes and a transaction tax which will generate billions for the economy

· Abandonment of welfare upheaval which will plunge families and communities into poverty

· Regulation of the economy to restore trust and confidence

Paul Kenny General Secretary of GMB said:"The deficit is not Labour's deficit, it's the bankers' deficit. The Labour Government had to borrow to save the UKeconomy from collapse due to the irresponsible actions of the bankers, a policy supported by the Conservatives in opposition.

"The banks' actions in pouring billions of pounds into risky and complex investments came unstuck and left tax payers and elected governments with a mess to clear up. This cost the UK£850 billion, a recession where we lost 6% of national output, two and half million unemployed, pay freezes, inflation rising and where taxation revenues fell suddenly.

"Unions had warned of the dangers of under-regulated financial sector and the banks now need regulating so it doesn't happen again. This is also the view of Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England."

Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON said:"It's clear that the Government is ideologically driven to massacre public services and bring the misery of unemployment and poverty to millions. This is a recipe for social turmoil on a scale not seen since the 80's. A whole generation of young people betrayed, facing a bleak future.

"Local Government is particularly hard hit by the cuts. 70,000 jobs have gone in the last months of 2010 and hundreds of thousands more will follow in 2011. This spells disaster for local communities and for people who need those services. The Big Society spin won't pick up the pieces of broken Britain's lost jobs and dashed hopes.

"We need a Government that will keep Britainworking by investing in our economy, our services and our future."

Len McCluskey, General Secretary-designate of Unite said: "It is possible to pull the UKeconomy out of recession without the misery of mass unemployment. This government is ripping a huge hole in the economy by contracting spending and throwing one and a half million people on the dole. But where is the Plan B? Where will the new jobs come from? Certainly not from a private sector which is reeling from the global downturn.

"We know all too well how this government can swing the axe; what we need to see more of is can they actually step up to the job of creating employment. Strategic investments can reap rewards far beyond the original outlay - for instance, a £6bn investment in affordable social housing would build 100,000 new homes and create 750,000 new jobs in construction and the manufacturing supply chain. This makes more economic sense than paying people to sit on the dole.

"Economic activism means not sitting on your hands. It is the duty of our government to actively support job creation. Roll your sleeves up, support investment, unlock the capital funds held in the banks and start creating the jobs needed to replace the million or so you have destroyed."

The three unions will be taking the message about the truth about the deficit and the Conservative-led government's approach to its members in the coming weeks, focusing on:

A fair economy:
· Fair taxes must be part of any solution. Systematically, companies and rich individuals have been avoiding more and more tax which means government squeezes greater amounts from working people.

· End to indirect taxes like VAT which hit the low paid proportionally harder.
· Regulation of the banking system to bring transparency; Government to use its controlling stake in UK banks to stop job cuts, excess pay and bonuses

· A transaction tax on City dealings, including trade in stocks, shares, currencies and derivatives
· A just welfare state which does not force people further into poverty and social exclusion
Saving the NHS:
· The massive top-down £80 billion re-organisation of the NHS in England to break it into small local commissioning units tasked with employing private companies to find other private health providers to submit the cheapest bid for public health services.

· The down-grading of NICE will also see drug price rise and access to them severely curtailed.
· GP consortia will see the return of the postcode lottery.
· The scrapping of waiting lists will cause undoubted misery for countless people in need of treatment.
· These policies are all designed to ensure the private sector and overseas private health companies exert control over access to health services - however the service is still being funded by the UK taxpayer.

Good education for all:
· Free Schools and Academies in England will force schools to compete in a local market. In some areas, e.g. Wandsworth, they are prepared to spend tens of millions of pounds to promote this vision even when there are surplus places in some schools and existing schools in need of repair.

· The English student tuition fee hike to a maximum of £9,000 a year is not being introduced to deal with the current deficit, as it will bite after 2014 by which point the Chancellor claims the deficit will have been aid down, but to create a financial market place for colleges, courses and students.

· The end result will be students from wealthy families going to elite universities and, if not deterred by the debts, other students seeking out cheaper courses at cheaper colleges in cheaper locations. Social mobility will be thrown into reverse.

Economic activism
· Investment to put UK manufacturing at the forefront of economic development,
· Support to expand low carbon sustainable industries.
· Reversal of the decision to block a £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters.
· The urgent establishment of a Strategic Investment Fund, alongside the promised Green Investment Bank.
· Energy pricing policies which recognise the needs of industry.
· Public procurement processes to ensure maximum benefit for UK manufacturing.


For further information, please contact

Steve Pryle, GMB press office, on 07921 289 880

Anne Mitchell, Unison press office, on 07887 945307

Pauline Doyle, Unite press office, on 07976 832 861

Notes to Editors

Cuts are not the cure - Joint union statement for 2011

More airline mergers and alliances likely

UK Airport News reports that Singapore Airlines is looking to sell its 49% share in Virgin, with Delta and Middle East Airlines apparently showing an interest. Unite will be concerned that their members employed by Virgin may have their jobs, terms and conditions placed at risk by "rationalisations" that might follow any such sale.

Meanwhile, BMI has announced a codeshare agreement with Croatia Airlines and British Airways has signed a codeshare arrangement with Canada WestJet. Such arrangements can lead to the loss of jobs of booking staff and ground crew as well as reducing choice for the passenger, so we have concerns as to the consequences of further deals between airlines at this difficult time for the aviaition industry.



3rd January 2011

Post Office workers protest but right wing think tank recommends many more privatisations

The BBC reports that 400 Post Office workers from the Communication Workers Union carried out a protest in David Cameron's home constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire over plans to privatise their company. The 3rd reading of the Postal Services Bill is due to take place on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the right wing think tank, the Adam Smith Institute has called for many more privatisations that they claim could raise as much as £90 billion in the short term if all government assets were sold. As mentioned in our education section, it is unclear how Adam Smith himself might have felt about this, as his version of capitalism was not a simple matter of "greed is good".

The HLC considers this a short sighted view. Past privatisations have had mixed success from the public's point of view, but always involve huge numbers of jobs being lost, wages forced down, outsourcing and pressure from shareholders to cut corners. This has resulted in underinvestment in many cases such as with our rail industry and demands for massive bail outs when the shareholders fail to make their expected profits. Usually only a small number of already rich people see any significant benefit from such privatisations - usually those who are very good at avoiding paying their taxes to the treasury.

This recession is not a time for protecting the wealth of the few, but a time to seek maximum employment for those who earn an honest living and actually do actually pay their taxes. (See previous article)



9th January 2011

Virgin announces that it is seeking to form alliances with other airlines

Richard Branson has announced that he is seeking to make alliances with other airlines by the end of 2011. There is speculation that he may be prepared to sell his controlling share in Virgin if the right offer comes along.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary elect, said: “News that the government is allowing investment bankers to again award themselves colossal bonuses demonstrates the lame nature of this coalition.

“It is intolerable that within taxpayer funded institutions these undeserving rich bankers have not been forced to change their culture of greed and excess. The self-indulgence of these bankers has brought our economy to its knees and yet this government refuses to veto their unjustifiable bonuses.

“As ordinary workers cope with fuel and food price rises, these obscene and unfair rewards are a reminder that in Cameron's Britain, we really are not all in this together. Front line staff in banks and insurance companies who have already seen 100,000 job cuts and pay freezes are disgusted that the government is failing to address the reality that taxpayer investment is going to the rich bankers and not our public services."