Tag Archives: unions

Here’s why schools should stay closed and why anyone saying otherwise may have a political agenda

School: even in exam conditions, teachers will struggle to keep pupils two metres apart.

Perhaps you think it’s not a big deal.

Ever since Boris Johnson announced that he wants schools to reopen at the beginning of June, the idea has become a raging controversy.

He didn’t say that scientists support this notion – for a very good reason, it seems:

Let’s have a look at the article, from Schoolsweek:

The Department for Education’s chief scientific adviser admitted he has not assessed whether guidance on reopening schools is effective, adding the current advice is “draft” and “will be developed”.

Appearing in front of the Parliamentary science and technology committee today, Osama Rahman also admitted the DfE had done no modelling on the impact on transmission rates of starting to reopen schools after the May half term break.

During a hearing that left some MPs visibly bemused, Rahman also suggested the government guidance issued yesterday on safety is a “draft”, and will be reissued after further consultation with Public Health England.

He also said the decision to reopen schools was made by cabinet, not the DfE.

Asked about the transmission rate among children during the hearing, Rahman said the evidence is mixed, and there’s a “low degree of confidence in evidence they might transmit it less”.

SNP education spokesperson Carol Monaghan then asked for clarification. Was it true that “we’re putting together hundreds of potential vectors that can then go and transmit. Is that correct?”

Mr Rahman’s response – “Possibly, depending on school sizes” – may have contributed to Ms Monaghan’s conclusion that, as a former teacher, she “did not think the profession will be satisfied or put at ease with what they are hearing”.

Asked what scientific evidence base underpinned the decision to reopen schools to pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6, and what modelling had been done, Mr Rahman said the Department for Education had not done any modelling at all.

He was unable to provide any proof that any scientific evidence had contributed to the decision to seek the reopening of schools at the beginning of June. He believed the Cabinet had made that decision, following advice from SAGE – albeit filtered through Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Rahman also admitted he had made no assessment on how effectively actions proposed by the government for schools to reopen safely can be implemented.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, given this background, that education unions united to declare that they would only support the reopening of schools “when it is safe to do so”:

The statement says:

“We all want schools to re-open, but that should only happen when it is safe to do so. The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, and outwards from schools to parents, sibling and relatives, and to the wider community.

“Uniquely, it appears, school staff will not be protected by social distancing rules. 15 children in a class, combined with their very young age, means that classrooms of 4 and 5-year olds could become sources of Covid-19 transmission and spread.  While we know that children generally have mild symptoms, we do not know enough about whether they can transmit the disease to adults. We do not think that the government should be posing this level of risk to our society.

“We call on the government to step back from the 1st June and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out.”

The principles and tests include:

  • Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
  • No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
  • A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
  • Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
  • Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
  • Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new covid-19 cases

Doesn’t that seem reasonable? Not to Gavin Williamson!

He said: “Sometimes scaremongering and making people fear is really unfair, and not a welcome pressure that is to be placed on families, children and teachers alike.”

Amazingly, he has had support from a Labour MP – Barry Sheerman:

Fortunately, this chap faced an instant backlash:

So it seems we are being asked to believe the unions are scaremongering, despite the evidence from Mr Rahman that shows they aren’t.

What do you think?

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Crazy: Theresa May thinks she can hold us to ransom over Brexit

Cognitive dissonance: Theresa May is acting as though her historic defeat last week never happened.

The latest stage of the slow-motion Brexit train crash has unfolded in Parliament, with Theresa May promising the Earth if only MPs will support her abysmal “deal”.

If her plan passes Parliament, she tells us, she will involve MPs, business groups and unions in the next phase of negotiations. Not only that, but she has guaranteed to strengthen workers’ rights and environmental protections post-Brexit.

Oh, and she’ll do something about the Northern Irish backstop – but it seems clear that she has no idea what that will be. She hasn’t said anything about amending the Good Friday Agreement or doing a bilateral deal with the Irish government, so it seems clear that the stories about them in the press over the weekend were fake news.

But then, it’s all a pack of lies, isn’t it?

Once she gets what she wants, she’ll do what she likes.

That is the lesson of the damp-squib attempt at a Tory rebellion in June last year, when Mrs May promised the Earth to 14 Conservatives who were threatening to vote against her Brexit plan at that time.

As soon as she had secured their support and won the vote, the government issued a statement saying, “We have not, and will not, agree to the House of Commons binding the Government’s hands in the negotiations.”

Mrs May lied then and you can bet she’s lying now.

And that’s at least one reason you can’t trust what she’s saying about calls for a second referendum.

Labour has submitted an amendment to Mrs May’s Brexit update, calling for a vote on its alternative plan – or on a new referendum on a Brexit deal or proposal that manages to gain majority support in the House of Commons.

If you’re still living under a false impression that Labour doesn’t have a Brexit proposal, you’ve probably been misinformed by the Tory press, or by a Tory stooge on the radio or TV. For clarity: Labour proposes that the UK remain in a post-Brexit customs union with the EU and maintains a strong relationship with the single market. Citizens’ rights and consumer standards would be harmonised with the EU’s.

The question of the Northern Irish border would not arise as the border would remain open.

One aspect on which I’m not sure is whether Labour wants MPs to vote on a Brexit plan and carry it through, or to vote on a Brexit plan and then take it to the public in a new referendum with the other option being remaining in the EU.

It seems clear that neither option is supported by Mrs May.

She’s still saying the choice will be between her mess of a deal and “no deal”, and won’t accept any other proposals.

As for a second referendum, she seems to support the contradictory view that denying people a chance to vote is somehow upholding democracy.

Yes, we had a vote in 2016. The result was heavily influenced by extravagant claims that turned out to be lies, and by investment in the various campaign groups by foreign powers that had no right to be involved.

And now a significant number of people who were too young to vote at the time have joined the electoral register, replacing people who did vote but have since died. Don’t they get a say in a matter that will affect the course of their entire lives?

Not according to Mrs May. She said: “A second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”

You might consider that to be another lie.

A spokesperson later stated: “There is a covenant of trust between the electorate and the government of the day and the PM’s firm belief is that it is the government’s duty to act on clearly expressed wishes of the electorate and, obviously, were that not to happen, that wouldn’t be, and shouldn’t be, without consequence.”

The government of the day was, of course, David Cameron’s government of 2015-16 – not Theresa May’s government of 2017 onwards (or even her government of 2016-17); the change at the top meant a change of direction. No government can be bound by the actions of its predecessor, nor can we be expected to assume that Mrs May has done exactly as Mr Cameron would have, had he stayed in his position rather than trotting off to the continent like a squealing pig.

She’s pushing her personal Brexit at the rest of us because that is what she, personally, wants to do. It has nothing to do with democracy.

But Parliament has a chance to change all that – and, given the evidence of recent events, it seems Parliament may embrace such a change. Mrs May must be shown she cannot hold us to ransom.

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Disability hate crime hits record high

Nobody should be surprised by this.

The Guardian reported today (August 14) that hate crime against disabled people has hit its highest level since records began, totalling 1,942 recorded incidents in 2011, an increase of more than 25 per cent – that means it’s up by more than a quarter – on the total for 2010.

The Crown Prosecution Service managed only 523 convictions for disability hate crime during the same period – so only a little more than a quarter of the perpetrators were punished for their crime; the rest got away with it.

The number of recorded incidents has risen by 60 per cent since records began in 2009.

Just to give you an idea of what this means locally, in my own police area, Dyfed Powys, there were three recorded incidents of disability hate crime in 2009. In 2010 there were seven.

In 2011 there were twenty-seven.

This is what your votes condone.

It’s the logical result of the government’s effort to demonise disabled people and those who claim benefits on their behalf, and I think we know where government behaviour of this kind leads.

Picture the scene: A street in a typical British town, with two men walking down it. We’ll call them Iain and Chris.

Iain: It’s so much better here, now that we don’t have all those disabled people cluttering up the place!

Chris: Absolutely! With the crips gone, we’re not spending all our tax money paying for them. (Taxes haven’t gone down though)

Iain: And so much more peaceful, after we got rid of all the racial minorities.

Chris: Not half! We couldn’t keep them here – they were a threat to our peaceful British way of life.

Iain: And now that we’ve got rid of the trade unionists, we can all get on with our jobs in peace, too!

Chris: Totally! It’s so much better now that our bosses can pay us as little as they like to work in deplorable conditions.

Iain: So where are you going for your holidays this year – somewhere nice?

Chris: Actually, I’m saving up for a trip to the private healthcare specialist instead. I’ve been having trouble with my back ever since the health and safety laws were repealed and-

Iain: Police! Police! Come quick and take this man away! He’s a dangerous radical and probably a socialist! He dared to complain about our glorious New Britain!

A policeman appears. He’s wearing a jacket emblazoned with the letters ‘G4S’.

Do you really want to live in this kind of Britain?

The bare minimum – and what it gets you

COMMUNICATING with people who have opposing points of view can be very valuable and I advise everybody to try it.

I mention this because I have been chatting with some of the folk on the Conservatives’ Facebook page, about this week’s big subject – work and working conditions. It follows my article, Benefits v bonuses – everybody’s a loser, to which some of them took offence, and I wanted to draw your attention to our dialogue about the minimum wage.

They want it dropped. One of them claimed it has devalued jobs, saying that he used to work in a warehouse, driving forklift trucks, for around £9 per hour – but when the minimum wage was brought in, the hourly rate went down all over the warehousing industry and suddenly idiots were driving trucks, taking no care in what they were doing.  If they did something wrong, they were sacked and another employed who was just as bad.

This indicates that “you get what your worth”, the gentleman said, and then asked how small businesses can be expected to survive when they have to pay a good wage, even if the person is no good.

My answer was that, unfortunately, you don’t get what you’re worth.
Employers try to pay the lowest amount possible, and in the case of these forklift truck drivers that was the absolute minimum. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys (as the saying goes) and that’s what happened – the quality of the workforce dropped.
If the workforce had been unionised, it could have negotiated for better pay and higher-quality workers. I know unions have not been very strong since the days of Mrs Thatcher – but they do have their uses sometimes!

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