Matt Hancock: for once he might actually be providing us with facts.
Bacon rashers and joints sold to Asda may have been contaminated with Covid-19 after an outbreak was discovered at a Yorkshire meat factory.
Mobile testing tents have been set up outside Kober Ltd near Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, which supplies Asda.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the information at the daily Covid-19 briefing on Thursday (June 18).
He has spouted a lot of nonsense over the past few weeks, but it seems likely we can take this information as accurate, because it indicates an increased threat of Covid-19 – and he is usually desperate to reassure us that the threat is reducing.
Hopefully this has been caught before anything reached the food chain – but let’s all wait and see, shall we?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
This Site has taken a little flak from Brexiteers(?) after reporting then-current beliefs that the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory was to do with the UK’s departure from the EU.
Honda has since made an official announcement that the factory will close in 2021 – not the following year, as had been suggested – saying the move was due to global changes in the car industry and the need to launch electric vehicles, and had nothing to do with Brexit.
The BBC’s Dominic O’Connell, quoted in this article, said: “Brexit issues may be lurking in the background, but Honda’s real reasons for closing Swindon are about the future of the global car industry, not Britain’s future relationship with Europe.”
So there you have it.
But I wasn’t wrong to report what was being said at the time. Yesterday’s article featured a video clip of a disgruntled Honda worker laying the blame very firmly at Brexit’s door – and on the Conservative government that has handled it so badly.
That’s how the facts were understood then. This is how they are said to be now.
Who knows what we’ll hear tomorrow?
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The pressure on employers to find skilled staff appeared to push up wages by more than expected in November as UK job vacancies reached a new peak.
City economists had expected the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit talks to limit wage rises, excluding bonuses, to 2.3%, the same rate as in October, but they increased to 2.4% in the three months to November. The figure rose to 2.5% when bonuses were included.
Vacancies hit the highest level since comparable records began in 2001, up 60,000 on a year earlier at 810,000.
Further indications that the labour market remained in rude health could be found in figures for the total number of people in employment, which hit 32.2 million, the highest on record.
The Office for National Statistics also said the employment rate, which measures the proportion of 16- to 64-year-olds in work, reached 75.3%, a figure that was higher than for a year earlier and the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.
Notice the difference in numbers. It seems we are to understand the seven extra staff are on the fixed-term contracts mentioned in the Guardian story below.
Would it be beyond the pale to ask whether they – however many there are – were employed on fixed-term contracts because bosses knew this closure was coming?
And would it also be beyond the pale to ask what kind of “redeployment opportunities” are being offered on other sites?
Zero-hours contracts? Fixed-term contracts?
It wouldn’t be the first time an employer found an excuse to cancel workers’ contracts and then re-employed them on worse terms. Local authorities seem to do it all the time.
So This Writer believes Mr Lewis was being extremely restrained when he posted this reaction to the closure on Facebook:
“I am so, so sorry for all the Britvic employees and families who’ve just got the news that Britvic have decided to leave our city.
“It’s a real kick in the teeth to the city of Norwich
“The workers there will have felt that Britvic went into this process knowing full well which way it was going with this.
“It’s a real body blow for staff who have worked so hard and they have every right to feel hard done by.
“It’s an awful time of year for this to happen and they have to go back to their families knowing the company is leaving.
“There are of course knock-on effects for Colman’s too, which remain to be seen. This city and generations of families have contributed to making the brand what it is.
“I know that at least one trade union for the site is deeply unhappy with the way that the consultation preceding closure was conducted. I am working with that union to try and get some kind of more positive outcome from all of this for employees.”
Britvic’s factory site in Norwich is to close, affecting hundreds of jobs.
The drinks manufacturer said it would be transferring production of Robinsons and Fruit Shoot from Carrow Works to other locations across the UK, with the site to close towards the end of 2019.
It said it would offer every employee affected redeployment opportunities at its other sites and help to find alternative employment.
A spokeswoman said that Britvic employed 249 people at Carrow Works but that this included a number of staff on 12-month fixed-term contracts which will end before the site closes.
Fight for dignity: When the government announced in March last year that 36 Remploy factories would close, unions campaigned alongside workers in a bid to help them maintain the dignity they keep by holding a job and paying their way.
Employees at the Marine and Frontline Textile factories at Leven, Cowdenbeath, Stirling, Dundee and Clydebank will be thrown onto the dole, albeit with help from the government’s funded package to help them get into mainstream employment.
We have no idea how well this package works, despite its having been in use since March last year, when Maria Miller announced the government was closing 36 of what were then 54 Remploy factories. A BBC article in May stated that the DWP was “aware of” 351 former employees who have found new jobs – fewer than a third of the laid-off workforce. We don’t know whether any of those jobs were a result of help from the government package.
Also facing the dole are disabled workers at Packaging factories in Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland, bringing the total number of job losses up to 234.
Employees were well aware of the situation – an announcement before Christmas made it clear that 875 jobs were at risk, on top of the 1,700 axed in March last year, with only an automotive business and (ironically) employment services remaining safe.
The Frontline and Packaging factories were slated for closure then, and the marine textiles business was described at the time as making “significant losses” despite an established market position. It was not considered sellable as a going concern.
It was, therefore, surprising to hear Esther McVey say, in a statement today, that there had been “considerable interest” in the Scottish factories.
She went on to say Remploy “did not receive a Best and Final Offer for these businesses as part of the commercial process”. Why not?
And she added that there were no viable bids for Packaging. This implies that there were bids, and begs the question: What was wrong with them?
That question becomes urgent when one considers the following, again from Ms McVey’s speech: “Businesses like textiles which didn’t have commercial interest and closed afterwards re-opened as social enterprises or new businesses, and in fact nine sites have been sold on that basis. This has resulted in employment opportunities for original employees.
“For example, businesses have opened under new ownership in the Bolton and Wigan factory premises, who are looking to create up to 35 job opportunities for disabled people, including former Remploy employees.
“In addition Remploy have confirmed already they have received an asset bid from a Social Enterprise organisation for the purchase of assets from within the Textiles business. This may have the potential to create employment opportunities for disabled people.”
If that is the case, they why has the government not considered restructuring the businesses along these lines, and leaving them to the employees – to manage as they will?
After all, according to the same government which is planning to close these factories without having considered this way forward for them, “Employee-owned businesses enjoy greater staff retention, innovation and motivation than non-employee owned businesses and, in turn, these deliver wider economic benefits including increased productivity, profitability and more resilience to economic shocks”.
All of the above makes it very hard to believe another statement made by Ms McVey: “We have always made it clear that this is about supporting the individuals in the factories, and disabled people across the country. £50 million was going into funding failing factories which meant £50 million not available to support disabled people across the country.”
Unfortunately for her, we know that this government has been cutting support for the disabled, partly by refusing them benefits, pretending that they are lying or deluded about their disabilities.
And her claim that, “As announced in the Spending Review, the Government further committed to continuing to support disabled people to move into, remain in, and progress in work” rings hollow when one considers the appalling result of the government’s work programme for people on Employment and Support Allowance.
It managed to hit only one-third of its target. Only 5.5 per cent of people on ESA were moved into employment via the work programme, compared with an expectation that 15 per cent of them would have, if they had been left to their own devices (the targets are based on numbers of people who would otherwise get work, plus 10 per cent. The work programme’s result – 5.5 per cent – is significantly lower than its target of 16.5 per cent).
All of this, coupled with the possibility of Scotland seceding from the Union after next year’s referendum, points to the possibility that the Conservatives are using Remploy as one last, great act of spite for our cousins north of the border.
I would just like to make it clear that this has nothing to do with me. I neither support nor condone it and I think more could have been done to find a fruitful way forward.
Scottish people always saw through the Conservatives – look at the way they reacted to the imposition of the Poll Tax, back in 1989 or thereabouts.
I fear for the rest of the UK if we should lose that perspective after the referendum.
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