Tag Archives: Frances O’Grady

Here’s why firefighters are on strike


If you’re one of those who thinks firefighters are not justified in their battle with the government over pensions, just copy the image above and look at it until you realise that they are.

Strikes are being held in protest at changes to pensions and the retirement age, which the Fire Brigades Union has claimed could lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they fail fitness tests in their late 50s.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, asked in The Guardian: “How can it be remotely fair that the prime minister, already a millionaire, enjoys a far greater subsidy from his employer in absolute and proportional terms than a firefighter who is earning less than £30,000 a year? It is sickening hypocrisy.”

And TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Once again the government is showing its contempt for public-service workers. Evidence warns that raising the normal retirement age for firefighters would lead to older fighters facing no job and no pension after years of good service.”

Still think the firefighters are wrong? Then look at the people arguing against them and ask yourself whether they belong to one of the groups that have, in recent times, committed expenses fraud, taken huge unjustified bonuses (consequently jeopardising the economy), or avoided paying huge amounts of tax – either personally or as representatives of one or several corporations.

You should be burning with rage at what our spiteful Tory-led government is planning to do to older firefighters – those who have spent most of their lives saving others.

If you are, it’s one blaze that our firefighters won’t be in a hurry to extinguish.

Additional: After this article was published, the following picture appeared on Twitter:


What do you think of people being sacked because they went on strike?

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Labour’s Living Wage tax break exposes the Tories’ ‘making work pay’ lie

Ed Miliband's Living Wage gamble: It's a stop-gap solution while a Labour government works on re-balancing the economy, but will small businesses go for it?[Picture: BBC]

Ed Miliband’s Living Wage gamble: It’s a stop-gap solution while a Labour government works on re-balancing the economy, but will small businesses go for it? [Picture: BBC]

Just one day after the TUC leader said the Coalition has broken the historic link between economic growth and rising household incomes, Labour has proposed a way to restore it.

Since the recovery began, earlier this year, Vox Political has been pointing out its lack of impact on the poorest households in the UK – readily evidenced by the rise and rise of food banks across the country. This is because any profits are being funnelled up to those individuals who are already earning the most and – thanks to our bizarrely-slanted tax (avoidance) system – into tax havens.

According to the BBC, Frances O’Grady told a conference yesterday that “households are being excluded from the benefits of growth. Unless this changes, the recovery will be meaningless to the vast majority of people across Britain.

She said the government was “desperately short of solutions”.

A Treasury spokesperson said the government’s economic plan (wait a minute! The government has an economic plan? When did they come up with that?) was “the only sustainable way to raise living standards” despite all the evidence to the contrary.

This person also said the government’s plan was “slowly but surely working”, even though the economic recovery has nothing to do with any government action.

But today Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, unveiled a plan that made nonsense of the Tory mantra that the government is making work pay because, instead of cutting benefits to make it seem more desirable to have a wage (even though the amount earned is still a pittance), it will actually add cash to working people’s pay packets.

There is a drawback, in that it means a Labour government will offer businesses a 12-month tax break if they agree to pay employees the Living Wage. A tax break is legalised tax avoidance, and we really have enough of that going on already, thanks to the efforts of the Big Four tax avoidance accountancy firms – KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young – who happen also to write UK tax law for George Osborne (because he doesn’t know how).

But it’s only for a year while the Living Wage gets bedded in. It’s a stop-gap solution to lift workers out of poverty while Labour introduces long-term plans to re-balance an economy that has already been seriously damaged by three and a half years of crazy Conservative ideological pummelling. Who can predict the harm after a full Parliamentary term?

And the Living Wage is becoming even more desperately-needed in the UK than ever, after a study showed the number of workers earning less than its £8.55 per hour (in London) and £7.45 per hour (elsewhere) increased by eight per cent in the last year (from 4.8 million to 5.2 million).

Mr Miliband’s proposal means private firms would be able to claim back about one-third of the cost of raising their staff members’ wages to the Living Wage. This would be good for the government as it would save money on benefit bills and tax revenues would rise.

But costs to businesses would increase. While these could be absorbed by larger companies, smaller firms might struggle to stay afloat.

It is possible, though, that the wage rise would reinvigorate previously-downtrodden workers (as Vox Political has suggested in the past), giving them a sense that they are valued and a reason to invest their energy in the company’s success.

Iain Duncan Smith has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled

It's a whopper: How big do you think Iain Duncan Smith's next Parliamentary exaggeration of the truth will be?

It’s a whopper: How big do you think Iain Duncan Smith’s next Parliamentary exaggeration of the truth will be?

Why is Iain Duncan Smith still a member of Parliament?

Apparently there is an offence, here in the UK, known as Contempt of Parliament. An MP is guilty of this if he or she deliberately misleads Parliament, and any MP accused of the offence may be suspended or expelled.

Our odious Work and Pensions secretary is a repeat offender. It is one thing to be “economical with the truth”, as the euphemism goes; it is entirely different to present known falsehoods to the House of Commons as though they were accurate.

Smith’s latest wheeze involves a press release released by his Department of Work and Pensions last month, in which he is quoted as follows: “Already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the [benefits] cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact.”

There is no evidence to support the claim. This has been made clear by Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, who said in an open letter yesterday (Thursday) that it was “unsupported by the official statistics published by the department”.

He added that an explicit caution had made it clear that the statistics used by Smith to support his claim were “not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact”.

In addition, figures released alongside the statement do not comply with the UK’s codes and practices on statistical releases, and concerns have been raised about the methodology and sourcing, along with possible advance sharing of the data with some – sympathetic? – media outlets.

As an aside, it seems unlikely that Mr Dilnot realised, when he accepted his role at the statistics authority, that it would be such a high-profile role. How many people had even heard of it before the Tory-led Coalition government came into power? Precious few, one suspects.

Yet it has now become a household name, due to the Tories’ continued and persistent use of faked statistics.

They claimed the NHS budget was rising when it had fallen – and only yesterday we saw one consequence of this; the critical strain facing accident and emergency units. Remember, many hospitals are having their A&E units closed, adding to the strain on those that are left. Why is this happening, if not to save money?

They also claimed – in a party political broadcast, no less – that the national debt was falling when in fact it has risen massively over the course of this Parliament.

And now this.

Smith is, as mentioned above, a repeat offender: He also stated recently that around a million people have been stuck on benefits for at least three of the last four years, “despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work”. These figures were, of course, inaccurate – they included single mothers, the seriously ill, and people awaiting testing.

Oxfam’s Katherine Trebeck, policy and advocacy manager for its UK poverty programme, said in The Mirror that this was “beyond the pale”.

She said: “The vast majority of people who are out of work would jump at the chance to take a job that paid them a wage they can afford to live on.”

And the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said in The Guardian: “Only people with weak arguments need to make up statistics.

“The secretary of state needs to apologise – not just to Parliament, but to the many who cannot find jobs, for misusing his department’s statistics in this way.”

The DWP has issued a statement supporting Smith, but its argument is extremely weak. It said anecdotal responses of staff and claimants supported what he had said: “DWP staff and claimants are telling us the cap is impacting behaviour and leading to those affected finally entering the world of work.”

Anecdotal evidence is not fact and cannot be presented as such. Our good friend Wikipedia describes it in these terms: “Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases.Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support of a claim; it is accepted only in lieu of more solid evidence. This is true regardless of the veracity of individual claims.

Manipulation of statistics by the DWP and its secretary of state prompted Debbie Sayers and fellow blogger Jayne Linney – who has supported Vox Political articles many times – to launch a petition on the change.org website, calling on Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee to hold Smith to account for his habitual offences against government statistics.

The petition is here, and at the time of writing has more than 76,500 signatures. Please sign it if you haven’t already done so.

It’s time for Iain Duncan Smith – who remains, let’s all remember, Vox Political‘s Monster of the Year for 2012 – to put up or shut up. He must either admit that he lied to Parliament and to the people in order to justify his despicable treatment of the most vulnerable people in the country…

… or he must be expelled from Parliament like the disgrace that he is.

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