Category Archives: News

Anger over NHS crisis provokes yet another mass demonstration

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The national NHS demonstration that took place over the last few days was a collective scream at the Government not to tamper any further with the UK healthcare system. This winter has seen the worst crisis in living memory stretch NHS resources to the absolute limit; NHS Trusts nationwide have been absolutely clear that although there is always a peak of admissions in winter months, years of lack of funding and chronic resource issues have combined to create the perfect storm of a full-blown NHS crisis. While the Government (as previous Conservative Governments did before it) like to paint the NHS as a black hole which will swallow up endless amounts of taxpayers money – the fact remains that the bleeding of NHS finances to the private sector, and the burden of PFI contracts established under previous Governments, have all put the punitive approach of the Tory administration into very sharp relief. Let’s be clear – the Tories want increasing private involvement in the NHS, while a huge majority of the UK population (whether they be Leavers or Remainers) want not only privatisation to stop, but for it to be significantly reversed.

People instinctively know that privatisation of healthcare is a bad idea – they only have to look at the system across the Atlantic and compare it to European healthcare systems to draw a very stark comparison. European voters generally want little to do with a significant profit motive in healthcare (what they get, however, is debatable) and, more importantly, they want their healthcare systems to care for everybody – not just a moneyed few. And contrary to the Government’s propaganda – in terms of value for money, the NHS is extremely efficient. But in terms of funding, it is well down the European league in terms of amounts spent per capita on health and on social care.

And let us not forget that the crisis in social care is as big as it is in the NHS, and stems mainly from the same forces at play – private healthcare companies and corporations bleeding money from the system – and the taxpayer. As with the NHS, the Government wants more private money introduced into the social care system – companies which certainly do not benefit patients – often charging exorbitant amounts for “care” while delivering a deplorable service – but they do benefit the profit margins of a large number of private providers; who while hurt over the collapse of TTIP, are no doubt salivating over the kind of trade deal the Tory Government may potentially make with Trump’s US administration. US healthcare giants have not taken their eye off the prize of the UK’s still largely state-provided NHS – and will lobby for a deal that will give them maximum access to UK patients on a private basis.

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It’s been going on a while – there have been many NHS demonstrations over the years. This picture was taken around 2005.

Trades unions have been warning for many years about the slow privatisation of the NHS and innumerable demonstrations have been held to try to stave off the surreptitious takeover of Britain’s last great symbol of socialism and cooperative endeavour. However, the fact remains that neither healthcare nor social care are safe in the hands of the Tories. The Labour Party, meanwhile, shackled by its not-so-distant past of supporting private initiatives such as PFI in health, must now be absolutely clear that it has moved to a position of absolute commitment to a publicly-funded and distributed NHS – free of the grasping hands of the private providers. Whatever trade unionists and socialists say about Brexit – it is an opportunity – either for a future Labour Government to ensure private involvement in the NHS is once-and-for-all brought to an end, thereby releasing much-needed funds that could be used exactly where they are needed. Or, it is an opportunity for a Tory Government – through a lucrative trade deal with America that includes healthcare, to allow US health corporations to strip what is left of a state-run service, like vultures picking over a wounded animal. Only the determination of NHS campaigners will ensure the first scenario is the one that wins out – and Aneurin Bevan’s famous comment one that can be translated to reality. The recent demonstration proved that there are still enough of those “folks” to demand that their health future – and the health future of their children, is untouched by the dirty hand of profit. The Tories are on the back-foot over the NHS – now is the time to seize the initiative and demand that their “reforms” are either halted or reversed; the country simply cannot afford another winter health crisis before creeping privatisation is revealed to be a cruel and bare-faced political lie based merely on no more than profit – the greatest political lie of the last 40 years.

Corbyn gains the “overwhelming” support of York & District TUC

Jeremy Corbyn has notched up yet another ringing endorsement from the trade union movement – the overwhelming support of York & District TUC. In a press release issued yesterday, the trade union umbrella group – representing unions throughout the York and District area, laid out their reasons for supporting the embattled incumbent candidate:

Following a delegate meeting held on Wednesday 10th August 2016, York & District TUC are supporting the candidature of Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming contest for the leadership of the Labour Party. Corbyn was elected last year with a huge mandate from Labour Party members – the largest mandate of any leader in the history of British politics. In addition, the Labour Party has almost tripled in size to become the largest political party in Europe. We believe this shift has been the result of widespread dissatisfaction with the Thatcherite monetarist economic policies of successive Governments over the last 35 years. The enthusiasm for Corbyn’s brand of “people politics” has taken the country by storm; Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s 10-point plan for the regeneration of the British economy, which include a 500 billion investment in the economy via a National Investment Bank, proposals to build one million new homes in Labour’s first term with rent controls and secure tenancies, strengthened employment rights and an end to zero hour contracts, is ambitious but based on sound economics of investment and a return to the public ownership of key utilities which for years have been bled dry by private companies. The Conservatives’ ideological madness of brutal cuts and austerity instead of badly-needed investment, which has been imposed by Right-wing Governments right across Europe, has proven to be an absolute disaster for all but the super-rich, stifling growth and driving down living standards for millions. As part of this, the bleeding of money and resources from publicly owned utilities by private companies and huge corporate interests – particularly within the National Health Service, and the allowance of the pernicious hand of big business in utilities owned by the general public, has resulted in an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, and abject misery for millions of ordinary people. Labour has won every by-election and every mayoral election since Corbyn became leader – with some of these elections seeing a swing to Labour of over 10%. Contrary to what the pollsters would have us believe, these socialist policies have huge support among the public, and especially within the labour and trade union movement. We believe Jeremy Corbyn and the excellent new team around him have reinvigorated the Labour Party with policies consistent with those of the trade union movement, and as a result, have taken the decision to offer our full support to him in his bid to retain the leadership of the Labour Party.

Commenting on the vote to give Corbyn their endorsement, York TUC President Leigh Wilks said that York & District TUC had a long and proud history of involvement with young people – those most affected by the “Thatcherite monetarist” consensus referred to in the statement. “We must remember that this consensus has ruled the roost for the last 35 years, and is now – especially through the catastrophic austerity being imposed across Europe, utterly discredited. Corbyn’s 10-point plan for the regeneration of the economy through investment in infrastructure is the very opposite of that consensus – indeed, it is exactly what we did following the Second World War, when our bankrupt nation set up the Welfare State and the NHS. Not just trade unionists, but ordinary voters no longer buy into the idea that you can cut your way to growth, and because of these insane and ideologically-driven policies, the UK economy has been flat-lining for years. Those who think that the poor should pay for the disastrous economic policies of the 1% are in for a nasty shock – and the proof of that is in the tripling of Labour Party membership since Jeremy Corbyn took power. There is a fundamental shift taking place across Europe – a movement of the people against the super-rich 1%. We can see it in other countries – in Greece, Portugal, and – very nearly in their recent elections – in Spain as well. The era of Thatcherism is finished. It’s time to get on with building things and creating the jobs, prosperity and security that goes with them.”

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Danny Myers, Secretary of York & District TUC, addresses the crowd at Corbyn’s recent rally in York

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Steve Howley, York TUC’s delegate and Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union

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Corbyn jokes with the crowd of thousands of supporters in St Helens’ Square, York

*all photography copyright to Leigh Wilks (c) 2016

Original PDF Press Statement Document:

pressrelease22082016

 

Yorkshire Regional TUC honours the martyrs of Health & Safety – pictures

This year’s annual commemoration of Workers’ Memorial Day – an event that takes place for trade unionists and members of the labour movement to pay tribute to the thousands of workers who have died unnecessarily in the workplace, had something of a special significance. York & District TUC celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2015 – 125 years of workers organising themselves into a movement that eventually would lead to the formation of the Labour Party, and almost a century later, the passing of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 by a newly-elected Labour Government.

On 29th April, leading trade unionists and members of the public gathered at All Saints Church, Pavement to hear the Reverend Canon Derek Earis conduct a sermon in special commemoration for the dead, and to hear renowned Yorkshire working class poet Ian McMillan read a composition in memory of the many thousands who had lost their lives during the course of the industrial revolution – and the many thousands more who had lost their lives just as needlessly in the modern age. Ian McMillan’s poetry is legendary among the working class movement, and his eloquent words a poignant reminder of the tragedy for thousands of families whose loved ones who had died in the course of their work, and in the industrialisation of modern Britain:

“For the ones who never came home”

For the ones who stayed down ‘cos they must

For the thin ones gripped by cold

For the ones who wheezed in harsh white dust

For the young ones who looked old

 

For the nameless ones whose light went out

For the ones who tried to run

For the trembling ones at the gaffer’s shout

For the ones scorched by the sun

 

This is the time to remember who

Stood every day in the winding queue

 

For the ones who rode the rattling rails

For the sweating ones at dawn

For the ones asleep by the broken sails

For the bending ones on Master’s lawn

 

For the nervous ones who daren’t ask

For the ones who helped their mates

For the strong ones who broke every task

For the ones who lifted crates

 

This is a time to remember those

Who wilted as the fierce heat rose

 

For the ones who took care of the rest

For the helpful ones and kind

For the ones with fire across their chest

For the squinting ones who are going blind

 

For the weeping ones on the factory bus

For the ones who make you smile

For the stoic ones who make no fuss

For the ones who go the extra mile

 

This is a time under darkened skies

For the ones who cried out ‘Organise!’

 

© Ian McMillan

Ian’s poignant poem was followed by key speakers who included Regional TUC Secretary Bill Adams, who pointed out that regardless of the result of the upcoming European Union referendum, Health & Safety Law should not be sacrificed on the altar of profit, nor be seen as “red tape” by employers eager to cut restrictions put in place to protect their employees. Rachael Maskell MP spoke of the honour of serving her constituency, which had a historic role in several key industrial sectors such as the railways and the confectionary trade, and that as an MP, she should fight tooth and nail to resist any attempts by the Tories to water down health and safety legislation to make the country more “competitive”. China may well be a mighty industrial powerhouse – as was the Soviet Union – but at what cost to the ordinary worker, trapped in low pay and unsafe working conditions? Leigh Wilks, President of York & District TUC and a member of the Regional TUC Executive, referred to those who had perished over the years as “our working class martyrs” who, despite the passing of the years, should never be forgotten, and would always be honoured as heroes. He said that unfortunately no workplace could ever be made 100% safe, but that it was our duty to ensure that in the modern world, our workplaces should be as safe as possible – and that the suffering of those in the past should cause us to learn, and therefore benefit the lives of their descendants in the future through making modern workplaces as safe as possible. “He who learns must suffer,” he said, quoting the Greek poet Aeschylus, “Because even as we sleep, pain we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart; until in our own despair – and against our will – comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God.”

To complete the evening, a collection plate was passed around, the proceeds of which were donated to the victims of Mesothelioma, a disease which was rife in York’s railway and construction industries before the dangers of asbestos towards humans was fully recognised, and a disease which, sadly, is still killing thousands today. “We have a duty to those suffering these terrible industrial diseases,” Mr Wilks said. “And in this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for any call for the relaxation of health and safety regulation, and any Government which seeks to do so under the guise of “cutting red tape” is an immoral Government that is in no way fit for office, and which does not deserve the support of the people, but their contempt.”

mewmd2York TUC President Leigh Wilks refers to the forgotten martyrs as the “heroes of their time”

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Ian McMillan recites his poem, commissioned by York & District TUC

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Ian McMillan signs the Book of Remembrance bought for the occasion

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Press coverage of the event

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