Labour Party conference - Will Corbyn take on Labour councils?

jeremy labour party conference

With rising assurance that Labour will win any snap general election called by Theresa May’s beleaguered government, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Labour Party conference on 27 September was designed to enthuse the layer of young professionals who were key to his election as Labour Party leader. Confident promises on housing, investment, employment and foreign policy were in marked contrast to his evasiveness in an interview with Andrew Marr on BBC the previous Sunday. Corbyn has to perform a balancing act: he needs to keep the support of better-off sections of the working class so that they campaign for Labour in the event of a general election, while reassuring the ruling class that a government he leads will be a safe pair of hands defending British imperialist interests. The most significant part of his speech dealt with the housing crisis; his proposals, including ballots over regeneration plans, are a challenge to Labour-run councils. The question is: will he follow through? Robert Clough reports.

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Laura Pidcock: working class hero?

pidcock 2

On 11 August the new MP for North-West Durham, Laura Pidcock, made headlines for saying that she could never be friends with a Tory. In an effort to placate Labour right-wingers who had told her to ‘grow up’, she later added that she ‘would work with a Tory if it is going to benefit the people in my constituency’ but reiterated her ‘disgust for people who are ambivalent to the suffering of my constituents’.

If only she had felt so strongly when, as a councillor in February 2017, she voted in favour of £6m worth of cuts to the 2017/18 budget for Northumberland County Council and a further £36m of cuts for 2017-20. Due to economic growth, £10m has come off that figure. Nevertheless budgets for fire services, social care and education will all be affected. In the council's minutes from 22 February, Pidcock is recorded as stating her concern that the public would feel that the cuts were too deep. Her primary worry was that Labour could lose votes.

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Labour government? No way forward for the working class

momentun corbyn

As the Tory government staggers from one crisis to another, the odds of an early second general election grow. Prime Minister May’s bung of £1bn to get the parliamentary support of 12 neo-fascist Democratic Unionist Party MPs has provided her with a slender majority, but one which is at constant risk. Symptomatic of an unstable and dysfunctional government are:

  • May’s lies that austerity was coming to an end when it is set to continue till after 2020,
  • her appalling performance over the Grenfell Tower disaster,
  • the obvious divisions within the cabinet over Brexit negotiations,
  • Chancellor Philip Hammond’s dismissal of public sector workers as ‘overpaid’ in response to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s proposal to lift the pay cap.

In conditions of deepening economic crisis, which Brexit and parliamentary chaos will only worsen, the ruling class may need to act, and it is now more likely to accept the alternative of a Corbyn-led Labour government. Robert Clough reports.

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Taylor review offers nothing for casualised workers

no to zero hour contracs

On 11 July the government published the Taylor review into modern working practices. Matthew Taylor had promised ‘to tell Theresa May what’s wrong’ with the fast-growing ‘gig economy’, but unsurprisingly – given that he is a former adviser to Tony Blair’s Labour government – the report does not seriously address the lack of rights, insecurity and low pay that comes with casualised labour.

Taylor said he would find the answers ‘to make zero-hours flexibility or self-employment work for ordinary people’. His major proposal is the creation of a new employment status called ‘dependent contractor’, an intermediary status between ‘employee’ and ‘worker’, covering casual, independent relationships with a limited set of key employment rights applying, such as holiday and sick pay.

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Deliveroo riders continue the battle for workers’ rights

deliveroo

On 23 May Deliveroo riders fighting for union recognition and basic workers’ rights crowded into a packed courtroom before the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Deliveroo riders and the Independent Workers of Great Britain union (IWGB) are fighting to gain a collective bargaining agreement. If they succeed, Deliveroo will be forced to negotiate pay and conditions for their riders with the IWGB.

Deliveroo argues that its riders are ‘self-employed independent contractors’ – and therefore not eligible for most employment rights. Collective bargaining rights in Britain are only granted to ‘workers’ (like self-employment but with core workers’ rights – usually casual or agency workers) and ‘employees’ (with full employment rights). Therefore the CAC has to decide whether Deliveroo riders are ‘workers’ or ‘self-employed independent contractors’. As ‘workers’, Deliveroo riders would receive the right to the minimum wage, paid holidays and protection against discrimination. Deliveroo has saved millions by limiting rights for its workers, which explains why Deliveroo and its team of eight lawyers at the CAC are so opposed to this collective bargaining agreement.

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