Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Carillion Crash follows death of Councillor Quinn

'He hath put down the mighty from [their] seats, and exalted them of low degree' 
(Luke 1:52: King James Bible)

To see readable press cutting laft click on image

GOD KNOWS BEST!  What need be there for anarchist assassins when the Gods are so clearly on the side of the righteous?  When the market so mercilessly murders those who most worship it.

Many blacklisted electricians and other building workers must be feeling chuffed today, as the news breaks of the expected collapse of leading construction company Carillion PLC.  They will feel that there is some justice in the world,

In May 2016, Carillion was one of a range of building firms which issued an apology in the high court in London, admitting that since the late 1960s they had been 'involved in secretly collecting, storing and distributing among themselves information about workers who had, or who were applying for, work in the construction industry'.

At the time this cohort of blacklisters said:   'The simple purpose of this operation was to create a database of information to vet particular workers in the construction industry.'  The firms accepted that 'their secret vetting operation should never have happened.   It caused harm to the employment opportunities of many workers.  The secret nature of the operation meant that those on the database had no way of establishing whether they were included in it, or any chance to challenge the information that was kept and available for dissemination.'

The firms – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – told the court that they hoped their apology meant that 'this matter can be treated as a closed chapter'.

The Road to the Blacklist


Carillion was created in 1999 by the famous road surfacing business Tarmac in a demerger.  Today, it employs 19,500 people in the UK alone, and is based in Wolverhampton.

Carillion's major projects have included 'the doughnut' - the iconic circular office building of the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) - completed in 2003.   Alongside new facilities for the Royal Opera House, Carillion completed the Tate Modern in London in 2000.
Its other projects have included the Grand Mosque in Oman, completed in 2001, as well as an expansion to Liverpool FC's Anfield stadium in 2016.

The company’s extensive expansion into acquiring outsourced public sector contracts means that as well as construction staff, the workforce also includes hospital cleaners, prison maintenance workers, port staff and workers in the energy and utilities sector.

Only today Unite's assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, will have had these workers in mind when she said:
'The Carillion crisis has become a major story but it must not be allowed to go over the heads of its loyal workforce, who are effectively being held hostage by the whims of the market.
'Carillion can’t keep its workforce in the dark any longer it needs to clearly tell them and their union representatives, how they are trying to overcome the current problems, with an honest assessment of what the future holds.'
'We underwent a vigorous and lengthy process to ensure that the right contractor (Carillion) was selected for the construction of One St Peter’s Square.
'Experience, reputation and ability to deliver were of paramount importance as we are committed to ensuring that this is a very high quality scheme and that it is completed within the projected time frame.'

The Greater Manchester Pension Fund, formally administered by Tameside Borough Council, represents all 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members

Quinn has been in-bed with the Carillion blacklisters, both in terms of Tameside Labour Council's long local partnership with what some financial pundits are now calling a 'structurally unstable' company, but also regionally in Greater Manchester, as chair of Greater Manchester Pension Fund [GMPF], in which as recent as last September, he was calling for closer relations with the company.  We don't know how heavily invested the GMPF is in Carillion, especially because sources close to Tameside Council have told Northern Voices that Tameside Council's deals with Carillion were conducted 'behind closed doors' by a tiny clique of councillors and officers.  As I write this other sources are saying that their is talk of engaging another contractor to replace Carillion in Tameside or of bringing estate management services back in-house.
 
Given what's happening now, it looks like Councillor Quinn picked a convenient time to leave this mortal coil.  At least he escaped the current wrekage of Carillion.

The scheme One St Peter’s Square Quinn promoted was typical of the office developments that have made Manchester so successful, not to mention so attractive to investors – although Mr Quinn declines to reveal to  Charlie Schouten what the fund’s return on the development was.

'Pension funds like to have a stake when a project is completed, but they prefer not to have a stake when something is still in the ground.  Again, we want to change that,' he says.

Yet what Kieran Quinn ought to have known was the contents of the Farmer Review which was published in October 2016 by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC);  Mark Farmer in this review of the UK Construction Labour Model stated:   'This review adopts a structure of evaluating he construction industry’s current and future state which has a strong medical process analogy'.


Mr. Farmer illustrated the ongoing problems and dangers in the British building trade: 
'The evidence reviewed indicates that the construction industry and its labour model is at a critical crossroads in terms of its long-term health.  Whilst the diagnosis points to a deep-seated market failure, there are certain industry trends and wider societal changes happening now that represent both unprecedented risk and opportunity for the industry and its clients.  If the opportunities are not harnessed, the risks may become overwhelming.  The prognosis for the industry, if action is not taken quickly, is that it will become seriously debilitated.  It is facing challenges that have not been seen before, which create an absolute imperative for change.  Previous calls to arms have not been acted on by the industry or its clients at any real scale and somehow the industry has continued to "muddle through".' **

The snag with Carillion is that its plans were based on continuing growth and its strategy fuel by debt to the banks, But what must not now happen is that the tax payers bail out the banks and the investors.  The Liberal Democrat leader. Vince Cable, has said that we can't have a situation in which the profits are privatised, while losses are nationalised.

*    Kieran Quinn died on Xmas Day.

GMB asks Carillion workers to get in touch

Taken from the BLACKLIST SUPPORT GROUP Blog this morning:
GMB Union
‼️ Are you a Carillion worker who wants to speak out? You can speak to us anonymously - our inbox is open đŸ“©
Commenting on the leaked memo, Rehana Azam, GMB Uni...
See more
Exclusive: Speaking out is 'unhelpful to us all', memo says.

Liverpool: A little local problem in Liverpool

Lee James Fowler   posted on BLACKLIST SUPPORT GROUP Facebook site  8 hours ago:

A MOTION was put before Liverpool Construction Branch tonight,

It reads: Unite Branch NW/0541 notes Liverpool City Council's continued, ill-fated relationship with two of the most prolific Consulting Association Blacklisters  - namely Carillion and Laing O'Rourke,which has been brought into even sharper focus by the collapse of Carillion.

The Unite Branch NW/0541 shares  The Blacklist Support Group's dismay that these rogue contractors have been securing public contracts within Our City, thereby rendering the Cabinets motion,passed in 2013, meaningless; to the point of dereliction of duty.  It also contravenes the ethos of the document referred to as the "Workers Charter".  The Unite Branch NW/0541 therefore resolves to instruct the Council that blacklisting was and still is an unacceptable practice,which cannot be condoned.  We therefore urge that those companies who were members of the clandestine organisation,the Consulting Association,and any others found to be engaging in Blacklisting,be removed forthwith from the approved list for future construction work procured by the Council.

Since these discredited contractors have continued to be awarded work in the City, this Unite Branch NW/0541 calls for a working group to be set up,comprising of two elected members of the Blacklist Support Group, and the appropriate cabinet council members,to monitor this process of disengagement.

Sorry I forgot to say it was passed unanimously.
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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

'CONSTRUCTION NEWS' BRIEFING::

THIS morning’s announcement that Carillion has sunk, while widely anticipated in recent weeks, still comes as a bitter shock.
That it couldn’t convince lenders or the government to step in, despite being entirely intertwined with the successful building and running of crucial social and economic infrastructure of this country, shows how sorry a state of affairs this had become. It suggests there is even more wrong with Carillion’s balance sheet than has been publicly revealed.
What is definite, though, is that the pain is only just beginning. Expect many more smaller, specialist companies to follow Carillion in going under.  Their crime?  Signing up to work for Carillion, possibly against their better instincts.
When the company extended its payment terms to 120 days in 2013, a senior manager described it to me as “an accounting trick, to retain cash”, but insisted suppliers were on board and that it was about expanding, rather than protecting Carillion.
It would continue to use its suppliers’ cash to make acquisitions, like a majority stake in Ask Real Estate in 2016, despite being burned by deals such as buying Eaga to try to take advantage of the doomed Green Deal and Feed-in Tariffs.
Consider this from the CN100: Balfour Beatty was in a similar, sorry state in recent years.  It has undergone pain, shrunk in terms of bids and managed to get back to a stable footing.
Balfour Beatty cut its directors’ remuneration from £5.61m to £2.72m in its most recently filed accounts. Carillion increased it from £2.72m to more than £3m.
Last year, Carillion’s bosses took steps to ensure bonuses were sufficiently protected.
Did its leaders know then that the balance sheet was getting out of hand? Its debt and pension liabilities had been talked about in industry circles for more than a year before its first profit warning came out.
The company extended its use of the controversial reverse factoring method for its supply chain later in 2013, due to what it described at the time as “high demand” from its supply chain, despite rivals gleefully slamming the move as unethical.
Bizarrely, the government of the day distanced itself from what Carillion was doing at the time, but took matters no further. It told CN at the time that government “does not encourage the use of supply chain finance to extend payment terms”.
That Carillion updated the market about the strength of its balance sheet, just months before the crisis unfolded, is unforgivable and has rightly led to an FCA investigation.
Today, tens of thousands of direct employees and tens of thousands employed by subcontractors are scrambling for information, for jobs and for answers.
It should not have come to this.
So what exactly did the government know?   And why has it seemingly taken years to get to the point where Carillion’s management eventually admitted defeat?
Calls for public investigations are often made these days, and generally with good reason.  This will be a watershed moment for the construction industry and a public investigation is required.  The industry needs answers.
For now though, there are many good people who will need jobs and many specialists contractors who will be fretting about survival.
It is a bleak day for this industry, which must learn from Carillion’s mistakes and show solidarity more now than ever before.
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UNITE says support Ian Allinson at Fujitsu

SUPPORT Ian Allinson ! :
THE ‘DISCRIMINATION’ of union reps sparks 11 days of strike action at Fujitsu in Manchester 11TH, January  More than 250 Unite members in Manchester have voted for 11 days of strike action at IT giant Fujitsu in one of the longest running industrial disputes in the UK.  One of the features of this dispute has been a ‘victimisation culture’ of union reps, which has included the dismissal of Unite rep of 26 years standing Ian Allinson read more   Keep up to date with Unite: Our union in Fujitsu website.
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Carillion crisis early fall-out: Small firms at risk

SMALL firms working for failed construction giant Carillion on purely private sector deals will only have two days of government support, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington has warned.
Carillion spent £952m with local suppliers in 2016 and used an extensive network of small firms, who are now waiting to learn if they will be paid.

Employers' groups are trying to assess the exposure of small firms, but said many faced financial hardship.

Critics want a review into the crisis.

Britain's second largest construction firm, which employs 20,000 people in the UK, when it went into administration yesterday.
.
Carillion's work stretched from the HS2 rail project and military contracts to maintaining hospitals, schools, and prisons.

On Monday, Mr Lidington said there would be government support for public sector contracts.
Carillion has previously said it used a wide range of small companies because 'we remain wholly committed to generating regional economic growth and development.' 

But the head of the Federation of Small Businesses said thousands of jobs and livelihoods were now at risk because those firms would be at the back of the queue for payment.

Mike Cherry said it was a situation made worse because Carillion extended its payment schedule to suppliers last year.

'These unpaid bills may well go back several months," he continued. "I wrote to Carillion back in July last year to express concern after hearing from FSB members that the company was making small suppliers wait 120 days to be paid.'

A partner at one accountancy firm, who asked not to be named, said small firms were looking at total losses stretching into hundreds of millions of pounds.

'Asset sales won't even raise enough to cover the debts of senior bank creditors, so many small firms won't see a bean,' he said.
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MP's Query Pay-Offs to Carillion Chiefs

BOSSES of Carillion who took pay-offs after leaving the firm are now being scrutinised in the wake of company's collapse.

For example former chief executive Richard Howson got £1.5m in pay, bonuses and pension payments in 2016, with Carillion having agreed to keep paying him a £660,000 salary and £28,000 in benefits until next October.

Also, ex-finance chief Zafar Khan, who left the company in September, will get £425,000 in salary for 12 months; while interim chief executive Keith Cochrane will be paid his £750,000 salary until July, despite leaving Carillion in February.

Yesterday the web-site City AM journalist Oliver Gillwrote:
'Bumper payouts to top former execs at collapsed contractor Carillion have put the reputation of Britain's top bosses on the line, the Institute of Directors has warned.'

Only last September leading shareholders  urged Carillion to claw back millions of pounds of bonuses paid to Howson and finance chief Richard Adam.  However, it now seems that Carillion changed its rules with regard to claw backs.

Meanwhile, payments to some workers for Carillion will lapse as from tomorrow.

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Monday, 15 January 2018

Anarchist Federation Splits!

by Chris Draper


REJOICE – the Authoritarian Fraud has been exposed and the AF come unstuck!  Once several AF branches issued anUnauthorised’ statement on the disruption of the 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair we knew they’d be trouble.  

Sharp eyed observers spotted the pronouncement didn’t carry the imprimatur of AF’s Supreme Leader, KIM JONG HEATH and predicted he might press AF’s nuclear button.  Admittedly Northern Voices thought he’d incinerate the enemy – those branches and individuals who’d challenged THE PARTY LINE would be expelled but instead the worms revolted and the Supreme Leader along with his entire Politiburo were forced to walk the plank! – Rejoice!


This had to happen sooner or later.  In the words of 'Monty Python' this devastating split exemplified, 'The violence inherent in the (AF) system' for AF was never really Anarchist nor was it a Federation.   In reality, AF was nothing more than a small authoritarian political party, an ideological sect.

'Anarchist Federation' sounds very open and free – not only libertarian, but a federation composed of independent-minded local branches but the name was always a con, chosen for marketing purposes because the reality was deeply unappealing.  If we go back to 1980 the Supreme Leader’s sect called themselves the Libertarian Communist Group (LCG) with just 16 members who were regarded by most anarchists as at best, 'Anarcho-Trots'.

As if they were determined to rid themselves of the 'Anarcho' part of the label altogether LCG then fused with the Marxist 'Big Flame'!  By 1984 this Great Leap Forward had resulted in a party, BF, with a grand total of 17 members!

The next move was to abandon 'BF' and create the 'Anarchist Communist Federation'. but as this moniker proved equally unappealing the sect adopted the more consumer-friendly but utterly deceptive 'Anarchist Federation'.   Anarchism is supposed to be a 'bottom-up' political philosophy, but this wasn’t AF practice.  Firstly there’s the Catechism or core of compulsory beliefs and policies, or 'Platform' as they prefer to call it.  

To join AF you not only had to fully embrace the Platform, but had to have your belief and sincerity tested.  Like the Moonies, a couple of party apparatchiks would call on prospective disciples to test out your worthiness before you were anointed with AF membership. In a rare published interview, in 2003, the Supreme Leader, admitted,  'Each member has to agree with our ideas and is met by AF members before they join'.  Membership came at a cost, a compulsory levy on your income was demanded.  Lapses in regular payment or ideological deviation resulted in denunciation and expulsion.

Of course Comrade Nick Heath never referred to himself as, 'The Supreme Leader', he preferred instead to call himself 'Battle Scarred', but as his militancy was confined to a liking for abusive language and a career as a librarian perhaps he meant, 'Battle Scared'.

KIM JONG HEATH will doubtless come up with some new mini-political party although, rather amusingly, at the moment he calls his faction, 'Communist Anarchists'  whilst his Leicester ex-Politiburo associate names his faction, 'Anarchist Communists' !  A Federation of two.

There is a positive role for a genuine, open, bottom-up, 'Anarchist Federation' to play in Britain.  Perhaps the faction continuing the title, cleansed of the Supreme Leader’s sub-Marxist faction might fulfil that role but first they’ll have to ditch an awful inheritance of dishonest and authoritarian practice.  

Their published support for the violent disruption of the Bookfair suggests the new AF is no better than the old and in this instance Bakunin’s familiar aphorism seems appropriate:
 'The urge to destroy (the AF) is a creative urge.'

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Blacklist Support Group comment on Carillion

CARILLION admitted in the High Court that they blacklisted workers who complained about safety on their building sites, while at the same time milking public sector contracts for millions.  Workers on projects run by Carillon need to be paid and are entitled to their pensions but no more public money should be given to the bosses of the disgraced company.   In any civilized society, these people would be facing criminal charges. 

When you invite blacklisting human rights abusers to run the NHS and school meals, don’t be surprised when vampire capitalism attempts to suck the taxpayer dry.  The government should bail out the NHS not Carillon or their bankers.  The government should nationalise Carillon now at the current market value of their shares (nothing) and go further by banning all of the construction companies involved in the blacklisting human rights conspiracy from any publicly funded contracts.  

Roy Bentham, blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool and Blacklist Support Group joint secretary commented:
Carillion going bust to me is Karma.  No tears crocodile or otherwise from me.  They were up to their neck in blacklisting union members for raising safety concerns.  They got caught and said sorry but they were only sorry for being caught.  The fact I couldn’t get employment on the Liverpool Royal Hospital or Anfield shows they never changed their spots.  The fact that the manager who placed me on the Consulting Association files back in 1995 was still working there up until this morning shows how serious they took this as a human rights abuse.  No one disciplined, never mind sacked over the scandal tells you all you need to know.’

Dave Smith, BSG joint secretary posted on his Face Book page:
'Carillon blacklisted me after I raised concerns about safety on their building sites; it ended up in the European Court of Human Rights.   At the very same time the company were milking public sector contracts including in the NHS.   Not another penny of taxpayers money should be given to these wretches.'


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Stop Press Robert Peston Tweet on Carillion

Carillion’s collapse is the definitive end of Tory and New Labour governments 25-year love affair with private provision of public services www.facebook.com/peston…
2 hours ago · Twitter

Richard Howson took the money & shares!

THIS morning someone curious had got onto the Northern Voice Blog by googling 'richard howson + panama papers'.

Who is Sir Richard Howson?

Richard Howson worked at Balfour Beatty, Bovis and Tarmac before becoming Operations Director for the Carillion Building business in 1999. In March 2004 he was promoted to National Construction Director on the Carillion Building senior management team, before becoming Managing Director of Carillion Rail in 2006, and then Managing Director of Carillion’s Middle East and North African operations in 2007.[2]  Howson was appointed chief operating officer of Carillion in September 2010 and CEO in December 2011.[3] He stepped down in July 2017, following a profits warning that led to the company's shares falling almost 40%, with Keith Cochrane temporarily taking on the role.[4]
Howson was asked to return his bonus, following the announcement of a £845 million impairment charge in its construction services division under his leadership at Carillion.[5] On 29 September 2017, it was revealed that Carillion's losses for the six months ended 30 June 2017 totaled £1.15 billion, following a further write-down of £200 million, this time in its support services division.[6]

The company Carillion is under formal investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority for the term Howson was CEO.[7]

Last September, The Times reported on demands from leadiing shareholders that Carillion should be clawing back bonuses paid to former directors of the stricken construction firm as it tried to shore up its finances.

The aim then was to recoup millions of pounds in shares and cash paid to ex-chief executive Richard Howson and former finance chief Richard Adam.

Carillion has been suffering since admitting in July 2017 that it had problems with contracts in the UK, the Middle East and Canada that would cost it £845m in writedowns.   It then fell out of the FTSE 250 index of mid-cap companies.

Carillion’s downfall, at that time had wiped 84% from its shares in a year, has left investors nursing heavy losses. Its shares closed at 42.75p, valuing the £5.2bn turnover company at just £184m.

Long-serving Sir Richard Howson and Adam last year made £591,000 and £418,000 respectively in bonuses and long-term incentives.

Richard Adam quit in January 2017, after serving in the role of finance chief since 2007, he was rewarded with a  2016 bonus of £139,932 which was paid entirely in cash, against company protocol. However, Howson’s £245,224 bonus was paid half in shares.

At the time Howson earned bonuses and long-term incentives worth £439,000 in 2015 and £246,000 in 2014, while Adam made £332,000 in 2015 and £203,000 in 2014.

Not bad fir someone who saw the ship go down on his watch.
 
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BREAKING NEWS: Carillion goes into administration


BBC Breaking NewsVerified account @BBCBreaking 12m12 minutes ago
Construction giant Carillion is to take steps to go into liquidation, threatening thousands of jobs

Saturday, 13 January 2018

FT's Lex columnist calls for watchdog probe

IN this weekend's Financial Times the Lex column writes:
'With minimal assets on its balance sheet it [Carillion] has said it can raise about £300m.  This not enough.  If Carillion wants to reduce debt to 1 times forecast earnings before standard deductions for 2017, it would need to raise at least another £300 million.  With a market worth of £64m it would be difficult to raise enough via a rights issue.  A deal with creditors to reduce or restructure is the only answer.  Shareholders would be wiped out.

Carillion suffered a sudden cash outflow when four contracts went wrong at once.  It is reasonable for investors to ask why downfall came so swiftly after former boss Richard Howson had claimed trading conditions were largely unchanged,  A financial watchdog investigation should provide answers.  But nobody active in the UK's risky construction and support services industries will be surprised.  The difficulties of valuing long-tern contracts are as old as the indusries itself.'
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Alan Wainwtright: Carillion's 'Deep Throat'!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

CARILLION LIES

As Carillion verge on the brink of collapse, putting 43,000 jobs at risk, I highlight again, my evidence to Philip Green and the other non executive directors from 2016 on Howson's lies to the city, their employees and shareholders.

Carillion's position on the blacklisting...

"Crown House, the only Carillion subsidiary to use the Consulting Association's database, stopped doing so back in 2004. The practice was proactively stopped because the HR manager responsible for checking the database believed it was wrong."

...is a total pack of lies.

I was national Labour Manager at Carillion for seven years and set out all the facts and supporting evidence disproving their lies in my three letters in January, March and April 2016. 

These were ignored.

You can view all three letters and evidence HERE

Friday, 12 January 2018

Death of a 'people's champion'

Kieran Quinn - Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Tameside Council leader dies suddenly aged 57

EULOGIES have been pouring in following the sudden and tragic death last month, of Kieran Quinn, the Executive Leader of Tameside Council, at the age of 57.  Following a fall precipitated by a heart attack on Saturday, 23 December 2017, councillor Quinn died on Christmas Day in Tameside Hospital.

In glowing tributes from mainly fellow Labour cronies, the former postman and Roman Catholic, from Droylsden, was hailed as the 'ultimate politician', 'unique', 'a great man', 'a visionary', 'a people's champion', and a 'good socialist and proud trade unionist'.   In the first election for the leader of the Labour Party, council Quinn, supported Yvette Cooper MP.

'Proudly pro-business', councillor Quinn, had been the Executive Leader of the council since 2010 having succeeded former Labour leader, Roy Oldham, an Ashton-under-Lyne Freemason, from Longdendale. He had also been a councillor for Droylsden East since 1994. As well as being the Executive Leader of the council, he was also the Chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) and a chief advocate of devolution for Greater Manchester.  He also championed the extension of the Metrolink to Ashton but later on felt that the tram was 'chronically' underused.  He once advised potential tram users travelling from Ashton to Oldham, to take a packed lunch with them because the journey took so long and they would have to make a day of it.  As the former head of housing for Tameside Council, he also played a key role in the privatization of all council housing and the large-scale transfer of housing to New Charter Housing Trust.  He subsequently took up a paid position on the Board of that company.

Although a former trade union official of the  Communication Workers Union (CWU), and a so-called 'proud trade unionist', councillor Quinn came under fire for his close links with the construction giant, Carillion who are a partner of Tameside Council.  In May 2016, Carillion were one of a group of major construction companies (the Macfarlanes Defendants) who admitted and apologised in the High Court in London, to blacklisting union construction workers.  A multi-million pound compensation settlement was shared between 771 workers when the companies including Carillion, admitted to breach of confidence, misuse of private information, defamation, conspiracy, and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

In 2011, local trades unionists from Tameside Trades Union Council, wrote on two occasions to councillor Quinn about Carillion and blacklisting and held protests in the area. Despite press coverage, neither Quinn or Tameside Council, ever answered questions or responded to the concerns of the trade unionists.  Two years later, in January 2013, councillor Quinn, as chairman of the GMPF, approved the appointment of Carillion to build the One St Peter's Square project and told the press:

'Experience, reputation, and the ability to deliver were of paramount importance as we are committed to ensuring that this is a very high quality scheme and that it is completed in the projected time frame.'

Only a fortnight before his death, the people's champion, in a letter to a Dukinfield resident, Steve Fisher, told him that while he was sorry to hear about the extreme financial hardship that he was suffering caused by his Council Tax Support Scheme (CTSS) - which presumed that he received an income he did not receive, and awarded him no council tax support - this was all the fault of the Government's who'd decided to reduce expenditure for the CTSS.  Mr. Fisher - who is self-employed - denies this is the case and that his financial difficulties are entirely caused by a political decision by Tameside Council, to incorporate Universal Credit legislation into their CTSS which was entirely voluntary and unnecessary.  Perversely, when Mr Fisher applies for Housing Benefit from the same council, he receives a full award on the basis that he receives a low income.  Bailiffs acting for Tameside Council, are now threatening to seize Mr Fisher's possessions, in lieu of council tax arrears.

Unlike Steve Fisher, councillor Quinn and his wife Sue, who is also a Tameside Councillor, were unaccustomed to financial hardship as they were raking it in from their numerous political appointments as Tameside Labour councillors.  With his sudden and unexpected demise, the family are likely to see a significant reduction in the family household income. 
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Steve Spielberg slams French critics of #MeToo....

YESTERDAY Steven Spielberg said he disagreed with Catherine Deneuve's insistence that 'the Harvey Weinstein scandal has turned into a "witch hunt" against men'.  Mr Spielberg claimed that sexual has turned was not just a Hollywood problem but it was a 'national problem and probably a global problem'.

On Wednesday Ms. Deneuve, a famous French cinema icon, was one of 100 French female writers, actors and academics who signed a letter published in the newspaper Le Monde.  

The letter claimed that campaigns like #MeToo and its French equivalent #Balancetonporc (Call out your pig) that have stemmed from the Weinstein scandal have gone too far and threaten hard-won sexual freedoms.

Spielberg, a Oscar-winning director, said: 'I don't see it as a witch-hunt at the moment - I don't. I'm sorry I don't see it as a witch-hunt - I see it as an imperative.'  He added that he thought the harassment scandal was a 'watershed moment', with more allegations to come in the future.

Spielberg went on: 'This is a watershed moment, and extolling the virtues of women coming forward through tremendous personal sacrifice, using tremendous amounts of courage to speak about what has happened to them yesterday or 40 years ago, it doesn't matter.'

The French cinema icon Deneuve, who starred in the 1967 French classic Belle de Jour, attacked the 'puritanism' triggered by the recent surge of sexual harassment allegations, arguing men should be 'free to hit on' women.
 
Interestingly, in the 1960s the young French actress Catherine Deneuve teamed-up with the Spanish 'anarchist' film director Luis Buñuel to create Belle De Jour, a dense, Freudian-tinged film that also worked in the director’s trademark surrealism and had better characters and a more potent story to boot.  It is about a young woman frustrated in her recent marriage who seeks to find out what makes men tick by becoming a prostitute.

One early critic wrote of the Buñuel film that 'there is always plenty to look at, often for the sake of humor.  Buñuel has always been a great comedian, with physical, dark humor showing up in the most unlikely places, but here he relegates it largely to background, which only makes it funnier.'

One may even wonder if Mr Spielberg is simply 'virtue signalling' given that this week Michael Douglas became the latest candidate accused of sexual impropriety.  Mr. Spielberg wouldn't want to be the next one to appear on the #MeToo blacklist.

Spielberg also has a new film The Post staring Meryl Streep coming out, which is set during the Nixon administration era in the 1970s, but he says it's actually very current and there are many themes which resonate today. Thus the current scandal allows him to give it a bit of a plug.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Anonymity for Spy Cops & Freedom

FREEDOM, the once famous fearless anarchist journal that was one of the oldest political papers, founded in1886, ran a story yesterday denouncing the decision of the Public Inquiry into undercover police surveillance to allow spy cops the avoid having their names revealed.  The Freedom story which was an article that first appeared in the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance
reported that:    
'The Inquiry has announced five new applications by anonymity from former undercover police officers. The police want the real and cover names to be withheld in all five cases, and the Inquiry intends to comply.'
Freedom on its website on January 10th, 2018, self righteously recites the contents of the text direct from the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance statement.  This campaign declares:
'Without us knowing the cover names, we cannot check the veracity of their claims. It is the key prerequisite of us being able to get to the truth of what these trained liars did yet, despite proof of lying, the Inquiry is believing them and keeping cover names from us.'
The Campaign Statement continues:
'Once again we see inexcusable exceptionalism being granted to police.  No other group of proven miscreants gets their answers taken at face value, in secret, then used as the basis for whether their victims get told the truth.'
The Statement rightly observes:
'No other institution is allowed to be the custodian and archivist of the files that incriminate them. The Met are asked by a public inquiry to do searches and provide the results. It would be unacceptable even if there wasn’t, as in this case, a history of them destroying the files to avoid culpability.  But with the police we not only take their word, the Inquiry seeks to protect them from feeling upset at being caught.'
The problem here is that it is not the message that is at fault - no anarchist would disagree with the contents of the above Statement, but, in the case of Freedom whose current editor is apparently Adam Barr, it is the messenger.  Mr. Barr's name is in the public domain yet a predecessor of Mr. Barr on Freedom, was or is still a hack journalist on the Morning Star who insisted on anonymity to the point of an obsession.  Indeed ironically Freedom today has become one of the foremost defenders of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the managers of the Freedom HQ in Whitechapel, Friends of Freedom, will be meeting next Monday for their periodic get together.  This is a terribly fractous time for the anarchists with their successful London Bookfair closed down owing to tribal disputes between the feminists and Trans community, and the Anarchist Federation in bits and pieces.  Steve Sorba, the Friends of Freedom Press Secretary, will be presiding over next Monday's meeting and with the next Companies House statement due on the 4th, February 2018, he has much to worry about,  Interestingly, Freedom Press didn't get a place as a core participant in the Inquiry into police srveilance, but with the next statement to Companies House now due on February 4th, Secretary Sorba will have a lot on his plate.

See also: 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Identity Confusion in Anarchist Federation?

A Crisis of Cookbook Thinking

A recently expelled member of the now fragmented 'Anarchist Federation'  wrote a complaint about the group last August on libcom, he or she concluded the long epistle by describing the background of the organisation thus:
'Bureaucratic, formalistic, bereft of ideas, willing to accept a group of leaders because they have organisational power and its members do not, because they occupy all spaces within the Federation, allowing no space to other ideas.  When it attempts educational work it is like being in school: there are things that members must learn and learn to repeat back but never to discuss, to explore, to refute or reject; that is not allowed.' 

This individual account seems to form a basis for what is now happening in the AF, by suggesting the membership organisation was a sort of Sunday School for anarco-commissars who are only capable of cookbook analysis of an half-baked Marxist type..


Anarchist Bookfair Blues

Following the wild attacks on Helen Steel, and what have been described as the 'Radical Feminists' at the London Anarchist Bookfair last October, some elements of the Anarchist Federation outside London began issuing statements and signing open-letters condemning the organisers of the London Bookfair for their tolerance of critics of the proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act.  The provincial groups which put the names of their factions to the open letters attacking the Bookfair organisers calling for 'disassociation' included such bodies as the  'AFED TRANS ACTION FACTION'; 'Edinbugh;Anarchist Federation'; Liverpool A.F.; and South Wales A.F.

At the same time there was a deafening silence from the A.F. high-command around Nick Heath in London.   Clearly the open-letters published by the provincials were seen in London for what they clearly were, compositions of gross ineptitude.  

What very likely followed were attempts by Nick Heath and his Metropolitan elite to get things under control by urging  the bumbling provincials to withdraw their corny compositions attacking well respected anarchists like Helen Steel and the Bookfair organisers.  Events resulting in the recent resignations of the central core 'communist anarchism' faction, is now demonstrating that that the attempts to get a grip on the provincial supporters of the Trans hotheads failed.

In this way the A,Fed embrace of the exotic Trans identity tendency has resulted in a disaster which would have been a little local difficulty in a bigger body like the Labour Party, but among the tiny tribes of political anarchism it represents the virtual extinction.from the body politic.  By embracing gender politics Nick Heath and the AF have gained a few members, but ultimately it has bit them on the arse.*

 Fleas Pretending to be Elephants!

On the 20th, November 2017, just over 3-weeks after the London Bookfair debacle the Anarchist Federation issued a Statement which included the following observations:
'The AF regrets that the opportunity has probably been lost to transform the London Anarchist Bookfair – which in recent years has developed into one of the most important and representative anarchist events globally – into an environment where this situation cannot not reoccur.  Whilst the right of people to choose their gender identity is not up for debate, discussion about the relationship between different oppressions and their relationship to the wider class struggle are nonetheless important.'

This is the kind of froth that the general public, if they troubled to read it, will find wearisome, but to the people inside the bubble of the interpretive community it may sound impressive.  It's full of froth because their Statement is rooted in humbug and hypocrisy.  It's hypocritical because members of the AF have often been at the centre of the troubles at the Bookfairs up and down the country.

In October 2012, Nick Heath dismissed the theft of books from a book stall at the London Bookfair by some AF members as 'an unofficial action by some people in the AF'.  In December 2012, Nick Heath was at the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair orchestrating Barry Woodling expulsion through an Emergency Exit where he had to climb down a Fire Escape.  In October 2013, there was an AF reported altercation outside the London Bookfair against Ciaron O’Reilly accusing him of being a 'rape apologist' for supporting Julian Assange.  The Manchester Anarchist Bookfair took place without incident because of a deal struck between the management of the People's History Musuem and an editor of Northern Voices.  In 2014, the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair was hit with problems because it became apparent that Ronnie Marsden of the Sol. Fed., Peter Good (Cunningham Amendment) and others were operating a lifetime ban against Barry Woodling, a lad of Jewish origins, who Mr. Marsden from 2012 has accused of being an 'anti-Semite',  In 2015, the management of the People's History Museum, after Baron John Monks became involved, finally banned the anarchists around Ronnie Marsden from having any further Bookfairs, and as a consequence there was no Manchester Bookfair that year.

When in December 2017 Tony Wood, one of the distinguished organisers of the London Anarchist Bookfair, was interviewed on Dissident Radio in London** about the decision not to hold another bookfair in 2018, he referred to ongoing conflicts at bookfairs over the last 5- years.  It is noticeable that during that period the tiny Anarchist Federation with little political clout in main stream politics, has been close to the centre of the bookfair disputes with the possible exception of the Syrian / Kurd conflict in 2016.

See the AF blog article is also on the web: http://www.afed.org.uk/2018/01/01/2018-in-with-the-new/
For more:
http://www.afed.org.uk/2017/11/20/statements-following-london-anarchist-bookfair-of-october-2017/
Or more: 
 https://communistanarchism.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/class-struggle-anarchist-statement-on_1.html?m=1

Readers also ought to consider the following matterial by Milan Rai on Peace News:
  
 *  On the Moral Maze, it was estimated that the Trans constituency nationally represents about 0.1% of the population,  A relatively small social community, but one substantially larger than the AF membership, which must be very nearly two in one million or less than 100 in total.  In this situation it is not surprising that the gender politicians out-voted the Sunday School League class struggle types.
**  Listen to Radio interview on 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

NHS: Protecting Community Assets

by Donovan Pedelty 
SIMPLY to let my fellow creatures know that (like Professor Stephen Hawking, among others) a Tir Celyn contingent is supporting a crowdfunding campaign to safeguard community assets of the NHS from the depredations of private profiteering, and to wish us all a Happy New Year.  For more information search for JR4NHS.

I just pledged to this case: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/jr4nhs-round2/?utm_reference=49aa68cb2a606c722bab0f7aeb3b3941&utm_medium=email&utm_content=post_pledge_page_flat_v1&utm_campaign=jr4nhs-round2&utm_source=backer_social 

Next Meeting: Wamkefield Socialist History Group

ON Saturday 24 March, the Wakefield Socialist History Group are holding an event at the Red Shed (Wakefield Labour Club), Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 on SOCIALISM AND THE USA: MARXISM AND THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN AMERICA.  It starts at 1pm.

Spanish Civil War Sculpture

More than £11,000 has been raised to honour the eight men from Hull who fought against General Franco.  (sent by Jayne Clenmentson)

A plan to erect a memorial to eight men from Hull who joined the International Brigade to fight in the Spanish Civil War has commissioned a sculptor.
Thousands of people from Britain and Ireland fought against General Franco's forces between 1936 and 1939.
Dan Jones, a sculptor from South Yorkshire, said: "I want to make it inspirational to the mens' families."
The memorial is planned for the city centre close to Queens Gardens but the actual site has not been revealed.

Four of the Hull men, Jack Atkinson, Jim Bentley, Morris Miller and Robert Wardle, died.
Joe Latus, Richard Mortimer, Sam Walters and Bert Wilson all returned from the conflict.
There is already a commemorative plaque in the city's Guildhall to honour the eight men.
Andrew Young of Hull International Brigades Memorial Group said the new structure would be a "more fitting memorial".
More than £11,000 has already been raised by the group and it plans to unveil the memorial next October, he said.
Mr Jones is looking to source Spanish materials for his work that will have the names of the men embedded in it.
The design of the memorial is not being disclosed until it is unveiled, he said.
Mr Jones said he wanted the design to be "inspirational to the present generation" and it would "commemorate ordinary working man who fought fascism".
******

The Battle of Lawrence, 1912:



  January 12th marks the anniversary of the historic textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.



Textile workers’ victory contains lessons for today
by CHRIS MAHIN
“We want bread – and roses!”
“Bayonets cannot weave cloth!”
“Better to starve fighting than to starve working!”
More than a century ago, thousands of men, women, and children shouted those slogans – in many different languages – in the bitter cold of a Massachusetts winter.
On January 12, 1912, thousands of workers walked out of the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts and began a strike which lasted until March 24, 1912. At its height, the strike involved 23,000 workers.
Located in the Merrimack River Valley, about 30 miles north of Boston, Lawrence was a city of 86,000 people in 1912, and a great textile center. It outranked all other cities in the production of woolen and worsted goods. The woolen and cotton mills of the city employed over 40,000 workers – about one-half of Lawrence’s population over the age of 14.
Most of the Lawrence textile workers were unskilled. Within a one-mile radius of the mill district, there lived 25 different nationalities, speaking 50 languages. By 1912, Italians, Poles, Russians, Syrians, and Lithuanians had replaced native-born Americans and western Europeans as the predominant groups in the mills. The largest single ethnic group in the city was Italian.
At the time of the strike, 44.6 percent of the textile workers in Lawrence were women. More than 10 percent of the mill workers were under the age of 18.
Despite a heavy tariff protecting the woolen industry, the wages and living standards of textile workers had declined steadily since 1905. The introduction of a two-loom system in the woolen industry and a corresponding speed-up in the cotton industry led to lay-offs, unemployment, and wage reductions. A federal government report showed that for a week in late November 1911, some 22,000 textile employees, including foremen, supervisors, and office workers, averaged about $8.76 for a full week’s work. This wage was totally inadequate, despite the fact that the average work week was 56 hours, and 21.6 percent of the workers worked more hours than that.
To make things worse, the cost of living was higher in Lawrence than in the rest of New England. The city was also one of the most congested in the United States, with many workers crowded into foul tenements.
The daily diet of most of the mill workers consisted of bread, molasses, and beans. Serving meat with a meal was very rare, often reserved for holidays. The inevitable result of all this was an unhealthy work force. Dr. Elizabeth Shapleigh, a Lawrence physician, wrote: “A considerable number of the boys and girls die within the first two or three years after beginning work. … [T]hirty-six out of every 100 of all the men and women who work in the mill die before or by the time they are 25.”
The immediate cause of the strike was a cut in pay for all workers which took place after a new state law went into effect on January 1, 1912. The law reduced the number of hours that women and children could work from 56 to 54. The mill owners simply sped up the machines to guarantee they would get the same amount of production as before, and then cut the workers’ hours and wages.
On Thursday, January 11, 1912, some 1,750 weavers left their looms in the Everett Cotton Mill when they learned that they had received less money. They were joined by 100 spinners from the Arlington Mills. When the Italian workers of the Washington Mill left their jobs on the morning of Friday, January 12, the Battle of Lawrence was in full swing. By Saturday night, January 13, some 20,000 textile workers had left their machines. By Monday night, January 15, Lawrence had been transformed into an armed camp, with the police and militia guarding the mills through the night.
The Lawrence strike began as a spontaneous outburst, but the strikers quickly realized that they needed to organize themselves. At a mass meeting held on the afternoon of the strike’s first day, they voted to send a telegram to Joe Ettor, a leader of the Industrial Workers of the World, asking him to come to Lawrence to aid the strike. Ettor arrived in Lawrence the very next day, accompanied by his friend Arturo Giovannitti, the editor of “Il Proletario” and secretary of the Italian Socialist Federation.
Although only 27 years old, Joseph J. (“Smiling Joe”) Ettor was an experienced, militant leader of the IWW. He had worked with Western miners and migrant workers, and with the immigrant workers of the Eastern steel mills and shoe factories. Ettor could speak English, Italian, and Polish fluently, and could understand Hungarian and Yiddish.
Under Ettor’s leadership, the strikers set up a highly structured but democratic form of organization in which every nationality of worker involved in the strike was represented. This structure played a decisive role in guaranteeing the strike’s outcome. A general strike committee was organized and a network of soup kitchens and food distribution stations were set up. The strikers voted to demand a 15 percent increase in wages, a 54-hour week, double time for overtime, and the abolition of the premium and bonus systems.
Despite the fact that the city and state authorities imposed a virtual state of martial law on Lawrence, the strikers remained undaunted. They pioneered innovative tactics, such as moving picket lines (in which thousands of workers marched through the mill district in an endless chain with signs or armbands reading “Don’t be a scab!”); mass marches on sidewalks; and sending thousands of people to browse in stores without buying anything. They organized numerous parades to keep their own spirits up and keep their cause in the public eye.
The agents of the mill owners struck back. When the police and militia tried to halt a parade of about 1,000 strikers on January 29, a bystander, Annie LoPezzo, was shot dead. Despite the fact that neither Ettor nor Giovannitti had been present at the demonstration, they were both arrested the next day. They were charged with being accessories before the fact to the murder because they had supposedly incited the “riot” which led to the shooting. That same day, an 18-year-old Syrian striker, John Ramy, was killed by a bayonet thrust into his back as he attempted to flee from advancing soldiers.
In early February, the strikers began sending their children out of the city to live temporarily with strike supporters. The city authorities vowed to stop this practice, and on February 24, a group of mothers and their children were clubbed and beaten at the train station by cops. This act horrified the country, and swung the general public over to the side of the strikers.
Concerned that the growing outrage over the conditions in Lawrence might lead to public support for lowering the woolen tariff, the mill owners began to look for a way to end the strike. First the largest employer, the American Woolen Company, came to an agreement. Then the others followed. The workers won most of their demands. By March 24, the strike was officially declared over and the general strike committee disbanded. It was a tremendous victory – but not the end of the battle.
On September 30, 1912, the murder trial of Ettor and Giovannitti began. It lasted 58 days. The defendants were kept in metal cages in the courtroom while the trial was in session. The prosecution accused Ettor and Giovannitti of inciting the strikers to violence and murder. Witnesses proved that the two were speaking to a meeting of workers several miles from the place where Annie LoPezzo was shot. Across the United States and the world, concerned people expressed outrage at the prosecution’s attempt to punish two leaders for their ideas.
Before the end of the trial, Ettor and Giovannitti asked for permission to address the court. Ettor challenged the jurors, declaring that if they were going to sentence Giovannitti and himself to death, the verdict should find them guilty of their real offense – their beliefs.
He said:
“What are my social views? I may be wrong but I contend that all the wealth in this country is the product of labor and that it belongs to labor. My views are the same as Giovannitti’s. We will give all that there is in us that the workers may organize and in due time emancipate themselves, that the mills and workshops may become their property and for their benefit. If we are set at liberty these shall be our views. If you believe that we should not go out, and that view will place the responsibility full upon us, I ask you one favor, that Ettor and Giovannitti because of their ideas became murderers, and that in your verdict you will say plainly, we shall die for it. … I neither offer apology nor ask for a favor. I ask for justice.”
Giovannitti made an impassioned speech to the jury, the first time he had ever spoken publicly in English. His eloquence drew tears from the most jaded reporters present.
On November 25, the jury found the defendants not guilty. Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom.
There is something especially poignant about the Battle of Lawrence – and something especially important about learning its lessons. The Lawrence textile strike took place at a time when the mill owners lacked maneuvering room because they had to maintain public support for a high tariff on woolens. That was certainly a factor in the workers’ victory. So was the fact that the textile workers comprised such a large percentage of the population of Lawrence. But those factors do not change the reality that the victory at Lawrence was won by the bravery and intelligence of the workers themselves.
The victory at Lawrence disproved the vicious lie being circulated at the time by the leaders of the American Federation of Labor that immigrant workers could not be organized. It showed that immigrant workers and women workers would not only support strikes – if given the chance, they would gladly lead them, and lead them well. The strikers in Lawrence won their demands because they never let themselves be divided on ethnic or gender lines, because they were militant (and creative) in their tactics, and because they found a way to appeal to the conscience of the general public.
One other feature of the Battle of Lawrence made it especially significant. It’s summed up in the famous slogan of the strike – “We want bread – and roses!” The textile workers who braved the Massachusetts winter in 1912 wanted more than a wage increase. They were inspired by a vision of a new society, one where the workers themselves ruled. In this society, every human being would have “bread” – a decent standard of living. They would also have “roses” – the chance to learn, to have access to art, music, and culture; a society which would allow the flowering of everyone’s talents, the full development of every human being.
On this anniversary of the Lawrence textile strike, we should take courage from the bravery of the strikers, learn from their clever tactics, and dare to think as far ahead as they did. The Lawrence strikers believed deeply in the idea expressed so well in one of the verses in the labor song “Solidarity Forever.” That verse confidently proclaims, “We can build a new world from the ashes of the old.” Despite all the misery we see in the present, a new world is possible. The cynics of today are as wrong to deny the possibility of qualitative change as the AFL leaders in 1912 were to deny the possibility of organizing immigrant workers. If all of us act with as much foresight and courage as did those who fought so well in Lawrence in 1912, the vision of those strikers can become reality, and we can win a world with both bread and roses for everyone.