Birmingham bin workers sold out by Labour

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Bin workers in Birmingham have been fighting for their livelihoods against a Labour council that is using every trick in the book to enforce major cuts to services and a union, Unite, that is happy to yield to the party it supports. Joe Smith reports.

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RMT strikes against 'Driver only' trains

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) called on their members to stage a 48-hour walkout in early November in protest against Southern Rail’s plan to abolish the railway guard on all their trains across Surrey and Sussex, making them ‘Driver only’.  This is in spite of the Government and Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), both promising passengers that they will keep this vital second person on trains.  They claim that abolishing the guard – which would result in 400 workers losing their jobs - is necessary, because it would cut costs and new developments in technology would help to increase safety standards.

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Courts side with Deliveroo

Deliveroo drivers strike

On Tuesday 14 November, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) ruled in favour of the app-based food delivery company Deliveroo in a landmark tribunal case concerning basic worker rights and protections. The decision comes after a year-long struggle waged by the company’s riders – organised by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and supported centrally by comrades of the RCG – in a bid to secure a change in their employment status from that of ‘self-employed contractor’ to ‘worker’.

Under the status of ‘self-employed contractors’, Deliveroo riders are not entitled to basic rights and protections, including holiday pay, sick pay or even the right to the national minimum wage. Perhaps most significantly, they lack the right to official union representation with which to negotiate pay and conditions with their employer. This re-branding of casualised labour is the standard practice of many companies within the so-called ‘gig economy’.

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Labour Party conference - Will Corbyn take on Labour councils?

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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?

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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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